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Fantasy Football 2019: Preseason Mock Draft Strategy, Rankings and Analysis

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2019

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) stands on the field during an NFC wild-card NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

As we head into Week 3 of the 2019 NFL preseason, there are still several unsettled situations around the league.

The Miami Dolphins, for example, still haven't decided on a starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon continue their holdouts with the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively.

All of this means that the fantasy football landscape is just a bit cloudier than usual with drafts on the immediate horizon. Things should become clearer within the next week or so, but if your fantasy draft is before then, well, it's not going to help much.

So, let's take a look at how things stand. We'll examine early fantasy rankings, along with some current situations to be wary of heading into your draft.

First, though, a Round 1 mock.

   

2019 Fantasy Mock, PPR

1.01: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

1.02: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

1.03: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

1.04: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

1.05: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

1.06: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

1.07: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

1.08: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

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

     

2019 Fantasy Rankings

Running Backs

1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

2. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

4. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

5. Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets

6. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

7. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

8. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

9. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

10. Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions

    

In pretty much all fantasy formats—but particularly in standard-scoring leagues—the early rounds will be chock full of running backs. If you've been playing fantasy for any length of time, you should already have a good idea of which backs to target.

You're looking for every-down players whenever possible, ideally ones who play on potent offenses.

This year, however, the contract situations of Elliott and Gordon make things a little tricky. Elliott would be a definite top-five pick if he had reported already, but he's a risk anywhere in the first round. Gordon, on the other hand, isn't even worth the gamble in Round 1.

While there's still a chance that the Cowboys and Elliott reach an understanding before the start of the season, the Chargers appear content to go into 2019 without Gordon, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

At this point, #Chargers RB Melvin Gordon’s holdout is expected to continue into the season, sources say. Contract talks have not progressed as he hoped, and he’ll continue to train in Florida for the foreseeable future.

Dallas has some incentive to get Elliott on to the roster, as the Cowboys offense is based around him. The Chargers, on the other hand, are less run-oriented and have a pair of somewhat proven backs in Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson.

It's best to avoid Gordon entirely in Round 1. If you're on the fence about Elliott, consider a different option.

       

Wide Receivers

1. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

2. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

3. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

4. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

5. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

6. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

7. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8. Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns

9. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

10. Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

As is the case with running backs, you want to target legitimate top options at wide receiver. Guys who regularly see a heavy target load, like DeAndre Hopkins and Devante Adams, are viable options in the early rounds.

While there isn't a contract holdout to consider at the position, there are a couple of situations to be aware of.

For one, Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen is still dealing with an ankle injury that is likely to keep him sidelined until the regular season:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Chargers’ WR Keenan Allen suffered an ankle injury at practice this week that is not considered serious, but could knock him out of the Chargers’ remaining three preseason games, per a league source. Allen is expected back for the regular-season opener, per source.

While Los Angeles expects Allen to be ready for Week 1, there's no guarantee that he'll be at 100 percent after missing the preseason.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is dealing with his own lower-leg injury, and that affects the value of receivers like T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess.

This is particularly problematic for Hilton, who could be a top-10 fantasy wideout if Luck is able to play 16 games this season. Despite missing two games in 2018, he still racked up 1,270 yards and six touchdowns.

If Indianapolis is forced to rely on Jacoby Brissett, however, Hilton's value takes a dive. Two years ago when Brissett led the offense, Hilton amassed just 996 yards and four touchdowns. For now, it's safer to bank on receivers with more defined quarterback situations.

        

Quarterback

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

2. Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers

3. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

5. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

6. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

7. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

8. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

9. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

10. Andrew Luck Indianapolis Colts

AJ Mast/Associated Press

Of all the top fantasy quarterbacks for 2019, Luck is looking the riskiest. It's seems increasingly likely that he won't be ready for Week 1.

"Really no further updates. All we have right now is a combination of full-speed movement and pain threshold," Colts head coach Frank Reich said, per ESPN's Mike Wells.

Luck is still worth a flier because he could be a top-five quarterback upon his return. When drafting him, however, know that he may miss time early in the season. Be sure to have a backup plan in place for the opening month.

When evaluating healthy quarterbacks, be sure to consider your league's scoring options. Scrambling quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have added value in the right formats. In a league that prioritizes passing touchdowns, Wilson (35 TDs in 2018) should see an even bigger boost in draft stock.

         

Tight End

1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

3. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

4. Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts

5. T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

6. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

7. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

8. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers

9. Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons

10. Evan Engram, New York Giants

Don't overthink the tight end position. Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz are all worth a selection in the first couple of rounds. They largely serve as top wide receivers in their respective offenses and should be drafted as such.

After those three, however, there is a logjam of mediocrity at the position. Don't reach for a middling tight end, and don't pass on a good player at a different position just to fill the TE slot.