We've nearly reached the midpoint of the 2019 NFL preseason. Teams will soon engage in their "dress rehearsal" game, during which many starters are likely to play close to an entire half. Shortly after that, teams will finalize their regular-season rosters.
While teams aren't quite settled, they are close to being what they are going to be in the regular season. This is fortuitous for fantasy football enthusiasts, as draft season is officially here.
What does the draft landscape look like after nearly two full weeks of preseason action? Let's take a look at a first-round mock, some takeaways from the preseason and some fun (and funny) 2019 fantasy team names.
2019 Fantasy Mock, PPR
1.01: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
1.02: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
1.03: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
1.04: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
1.05: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
1.06: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
1.07: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
1.08: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
1.09: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
1.10: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
1.11: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
1.12: James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
David Johnson Is Losing Value
The Arizona Cardinals hired former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury hoping that his innovative offense would translate to the NFL. It may, but the early returns from preseason have not been promising.
As a team, the Cardinals have generated just 5.5 yards per offensive play and have converted a mere six of 23 third-down attempts. Poor offensive-line play has been problematic for rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, and Arizona's offense is not being viewed as a physical or a fundamentally sound unit.
"It's pretty boy football," Oakland Raider safety Lamarcus Joyner told ESPN's Lisa Salters.
All of this is bad news for running back David Johnson, who is still trending as a first-round pick, according to Yahoo Fantasy.
Johnson should not be a first-round consideration. Maybe the offense will find its rhythm, but there's no guarantee that Johnson will be a major part of it. He's caught just one pass in each game—part of his first-round appeal is his established role in the passing game—and he's averaged just 1.5 yards per carry.
Further hurting Johnson's stock is the woeful state of the Cardinals defense. Through two preseason games, Arizona has allowed 730 yards and six touchdowns while generating just one interception and one forced fumble.
Arizona may regularly be playing from behind this season, which dramatically hurts Johnson's value as a runner.
David Johnson stat projection: 930 yards rushing, 335 yards receiving, 7 TDs.
Josh Gordon Is Back but Is Still a Risk
The New England Patriots—and many fantasy footballers—received some good news on Friday. Wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was suspended indefinitely for a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy last year, has been conditionally reinstated by the league.
"We are all rooting for Josh to succeed, both personally and professionally," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Friday. "Everyone shares in that hope and will continue to support him to every extent possible. But as Josh acknowledged, ultimately his success is up to him."
In 11 games with the Patriots last season, Gordon racked up 41 receptions, 720 yards and three touchdowns. Prorated for a full 16-game season, his production would be roughly 60 receptions, 1,047 yards and four scores.
Those numbers are not good enough for Round 1 consideration, but it's worth noting Gordon joined the Patriots after Week 2 and made his debut in Week 4. He had little time to absorb New England's offense, yet he was a factor almost immediately.
Entering his second year with New England, Gordon has the potential to be even better than he was last season. In fact, we could see glimpses of the guy who racked up 1,646 yards in just 14 games back in 2013. However, it's important to remember that Gordon is always going to remain a suspension risk.
Don't think about taking Gordon in the first couple of rounds. There is too much uncertainty to justify that. He starts to become a viable risk-reward option around Round 5. If you can grab him after that, feel free to take a flier. Just know that he may be unavailable for the stretch playoff run.
Josh Gordon stat projections (if available 16 games): 1,213 yards, 7 TDs.
Ezekiel Elliott Is Returning to Dallas
Though star running back Ezekiel Elliott has not yet rejoined the Dallas Cowboys, he will at least be close to the team as they wrap up the preseason. According to Mike Leslie of WFAA Dallas, Elliott is returning from Cabo, along with his training staff:
Mike Leslie @MikeLeslieWFAA
Can confirm picture of Zeke Elliott flying home from Cabo is real. He’s back to DFW now, as the Cowboys return from the Pacific this weekend, after today’s game in Hawaii. No deal yet, but they remain optimistic it will get done soon. His training team traveled home with him.
This is great news for fantasy managers, as it could indicate Elliott and the Cowboys are close to getting a deal done. The running back has stayed away from the team in an effort to leverage a new contract. The reality, though, is that the two sides need each other.
Elliott is a two-time league rushing champ and the centerpiece of Dallas' offense. The Cowboys hold Elliott's rights for another two years, per his rookie contract. The Cowboys offense won't be the same without Elliott, and the running back cannot get any closer to free agency by sitting out the season.
It's felt all along like Elliott would be back early in the season, if not by Week 1. While he's not a lock for a full 16-game season, he's a safer first-round target than he was as recently as the start of August.
The same cannot be said for Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. L.A. has not built its offense around Gordon and has little reason to give in to his demands. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the two sides have not made progress:
While Elliott may end his holdout soon, Gordon could be sitting for a while. He is a player to avoid in Round 1.
Ezekiel Elliott stat projections: 1,150 yards rushing, 750 yards receiving, 10 TDs.
Melvin Gordon stat projections (if holdout lasts eight games): 535 yards rushing, 350 yards receiving.
2019 Fantasy Team Names
That Loving Thielen
Hangin' With Amari Cooper
DJ Chark on the 1s and 2s
Kalen Me Smalls
Captain and N'Keal
Sony Side Up
Mixon It Up
For Whom Odell Tolls
Saquon, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' Blue)
A Whiter Shade of Fales
Baker of Chains
Every Day I'm Russelin'