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Fantasy Football 2019: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 16, 2019

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) practices with teammates at the NFL football team's training camp in Thursday, July 25, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

No matter your approach to a fantasy football draft—be it mock or official—your first three picks set the foundation for your team.

So, to prepare yourself for the unpredictability of draft day, we'll examine the best strategy for each selection spot in a 12-team, non-PPR mock.

While your input is critical (don't forget, it's your team and, equally important, your leaguemates), this guide—compiled with the draft simulator at Fantasy Pros—presents the different routes available to you no matter when you're on the clock.

                      

Team 1: RB/WR/WR

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

24. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts

25. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Regardless of format, the top player on your draft board should be Barkley. Last season was his first in the NFL, and all he did was rank second in rushing yards (1,307), second among running backs in receptions (91) and tied for third in total touchdowns (15).

Knowing you have an elite back in hand, you're probably best off addressing the receiver spot with your next two picks. In this case, grabbing Hilton and Allen at the Rounds 2-3 turn nets a pair of players likely to tally 1,000-plus yards and capable of scoring 10-plus touchdowns.

                 

Team 2: RB/RB/WR

2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

23. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

26. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Maybe your draft board is different, but ours features Christian McCaffrey as a close second to Barkley. Because the Panthers star functions as a top option both on the ground (219 carries for 1,098 yards) and through the air (107 receptions for 867 yards), you may want to grab a second stud rusher while you can.

Provided Gordon makes it onto the field—he's holding out for a new deal—he could be one of the top draft steals. He's managed double-digit touchdowns each of the last three seasons, despite missing four games last year and three in 2016. With a safety blanket like McCaffrey, you can roll the dice on Gordon making it back sooner than later.

Finally, Cooper gives you an outside shot at an elite receiver even though you waited three rounds to address the position. During his nine games with the Cowboys in 2018, he contributed 53 grabs for 725 yards and six scores.

                   

Team 3: RB/WR/WR

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

22. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

27. Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Consider this the upside group: All three players could be special, but each has some strike against him.

Elliott wants a new deal, and while he hasn't received it yet, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported he's ready to go "if and when the two sides can work out a deal." Cowboys owner Jerry Jones thinks an agreement will be reached, so fantasy owners should, too.

Treat Elliott as an elite option, since he's been that every time he takes the field (4,048 rushing yards and 34 total touchdowns in 40 career games).

Neither Evans nor Cooks has produced a 100-catch season, so both are susceptible to volatility. That said, each is a touchdown threat on almost any target, and their good games could win you weeks on their own.

                  

Team 4: RB/WR/RB

4. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

21. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

28. Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts

If you're sensing a pattern with the first-round picks, that's because there is one. In a non-PPR league, expect your leaguemates to hit the running back position hard at the top of the draft board.

Kamara is equal parts electric rusher and explosive receiver. Last season, he registered more than 700 yards in each category while finding the end zone 18 times.

Even though his workload isn't supposed to increase without Mark Ingram, his former running mate did have seven scores in 2018, so maybe Kamara picks up an extra one here or there.

Hill is a burner in a turbo-charged offense. He averaged a whopping 17.0 yards per catch on 87 receptions last season, 12 of which resulted in touchdowns.

Mack impressed during his first year as a featured back (908 rushing yards, 10 total scores), and as long as Andrew Luck gets healthy (never a given), he's poised for a big-time encore.

                  

Team 5: RB/WR/TE

5. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

20. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

29. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

Johnson has No. 1 fantasy player—not running back, player—potential. His 2016 season proved as much when he paced all players in fantasy scoring after totaling 1,239 rushing yards, 879 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns.

With Kyler Murray under center and Kliff Kingsbury steering the ship, the Cardinals' offense could fly high, and if it does, Johnson should be at the center of it.

The next two picks might deliver the top overall receiver and tight end. Neither is ranked that way, but both are coming off eye-opening campaigns.

Smith-Schuster broke out with 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, and he's no longer sharing catches with Antonio Brown.

Kittle, meanwhile, set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end (1,377), and his stock might still be trending up with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo handling the Niners' snaps.

                

Team 6: RB/RB/WR

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

19. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

30. Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders

Reuniting Bell and Brown while sprinkling Cook in between them could be the start of a championship season.

There are two ways to process Bell sitting out the entire 2018 season. Either you think he's returning with rust, or you feel he's refreshed and capable of providing elite production. It's too tempting not to gamble on the latter, since we know what he can do. In 2017, he squeezed 1,946 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns into 15 contests.

Cook comes with injury concerns (he's only played 15 games in two seasons) but also a shot at greatness. He has averaged almost five yards per carry for his career.

As ESPN's Matthew Berry noted, he has been a top-shelf fantasy option when he has at least moderate volume:

Matthew Berry @MatthewBerryTMR

Happy Birthday to Dalvin Cook, who turns 24 today. A healthy version of him can be scary … in 7 career games with 13+ touches, Cook is avg 19 points per game. Do that for an entire yr & we are talking over 300 points & a surefire RB1. Love the upside at his current ADP. https://t.co/tLJL0tZ8S4

Brown gave fantasy owners a welcome sight Thursday, when he appeared in full uniform (helmet and all) ahead of Oakland's game with Arizona.

Despite what some of the off-field distractions might lead you to believe, he's about as safe as fantasy performers get. In each of the past six seasons, he's had more than 100 receptions for over 1,200 yards and eight-plus touchdowns.

                 

Team 7: RB/TE/RB

7. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

18. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

31. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions

While small sample sizes can be a worry in certain fantasy situations, NFL running backs are different. Because they have such a short shelf life, the first sign of elite production is usually convincing enough.

Does anyone have doubts about Conner in a Bell-less Pittsburgh backfield? You shouldn't. He proved his worth in a bell-cow role without Bell last year and delivered 215 carries for 973 yards, 55 receptions for 497 yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games. Count us convinced.

Kelce could make us look foolish for suggesting anyone else will lead tight ends in fantasy production. His connection with Patrick Mahomes looks special. They connected 103 times for 1,336 yards and 10 scores last season.

Johnson, meanwhile, could shine in a featured role. He has major breakout potential after rushing at an elite rate of 5.4 yards per clip on 118 carries in 2018.

                

Team 8: WR/QB/RB

8. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

17. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

32. Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders

The top receiver, the top quarterback and a breakout running back, all collected from the eighth selection spot? It could happen, folks.

Hopkins is silly good. Last season, he was third in receptions (115), second in receiving yards (1,572) and fifth in receiving touchdowns (11). Only Tyreek Hill managed more fantasy points at wide receiver—by half a point.

Mahomes, meanwhile, is the counterargument against waiting for a quarterback. Why wait on a passer when this one just delivered 5,097 yards and 52 total touchdowns? Maybe you shouldn't.

Jacobs is the lead option among rookie running backs, and he should play a major part in Oakland's rushing and passing attacks.

                   

Team 9: WR/WR/RB

9. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

16. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns

33. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Congratulations, Team 9! Two picks into the draft, and you've already assembled the league's strongest receiving tandem.

Adams is the favorite target of Aaron Rodgers. Beckham will be the favorite target of Baker Mayfield. Each could flirt with 1,500 receiving yards and score double-digit touchdowns. Rather than reach for a second-tier running back at either spot, you're best off taking two top performers at wideout.

Plus, you just might stumble into a top-10 running back with Fournette. That's where he landed in 2017, when he only played 13 games and didn't have Nick Foles under center.

                 

Team 10: RB/RB/TE

10. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

15. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

34. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

Feeling bummed about a low placement on the draft board? This scenario should brighten your spirits.

Chubb only started nine games last season and still cleared 1,000 scrimmage yards with 10 touchdowns. With Mayfield locking up the quarterback spot and Beckham around to draw defenders away, Chubb could be entering a monster season.

While Gurley's knee is a concern, the risk has been baked into this price point and then some. He was third among running backs in fantasy scoring last season and first among all players in 2017. He tallied 40 touchdowns over that stretch. If he's still on the board at 15, consider it a gift from the fantasy gods.

Ertz caught 116 passes last season. Only Julio Jones hauled in more. Provided you can find some value at wide receiver later in the draft, this team is off to a tremendous start.

                 

Team 11: WR/RB/RB

11. Julio Jones, WR, New Orleans Saints

14. Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

35. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

Getting Jones at No. 11 feels like legalized larceny, even in a non-PPR league. The last time he had fewer than 1,409 receiving yards was 2013. There's a non-zero chance he'll give you 120 catches for 1,500 yards and 10-plus touchdowns.

Williams might be a reach here after losing time to a hamstring injury and possibly landing in a by-committee backfield. Then again, he's the starting running back in the NFL's most explosive offense. If he looks like he did late last season (322 scrimmage yards, four touchdowns in the final three games), he won't have a problem generating numbers or validating this pick.

Jones averaged a league-leading 5.5 yards per carry last season. He had eight rushing touchdowns on 133 attempts. He catches passes from Aaron Rodgers. He could be a steal.

                

Team 12: WR/RB/WR

12. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

13. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

36. Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

Good things come to those who wait.

Thomas caught an NFL-best 125 passes for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

Mixon had the fourth-most rushing yards (1,168), plus 296 receiving yards and nine total scores.

Thielen tied an NFL record with eight consecutive 100-yard receiving efforts and wound up with 113 grabs for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns.

The talent level is real, and it will only grow greater with the 37th selection.