Training camps have begun around the NFL, which is a signal that fantasy draft season is upon us. Over the next few weeks, fantasy enthusiasts in season-long leagues will select players for their virtual teams for the 2020 season.
The draft process will be a little trickier this year, as there will be no preseason with which to evaluate players and prospective roles. Therefore, it will be as important as ever to gauge values from training-camp detective work and mock draft analysis.
While fantasy mock drafts can feel a bit silly at times—since, you know, the entire fantasy season is a bit of a mock concept—they can be a valuable tool to help managers decipher where players are being valued.
Here, we'll look at a two-round 12-team mock draft simulation, as run by FantasyPros' Mock Draft Simulator. We'll dig into some of the bold picks from the early rounds and break down some strategies for fleshing out a roster in the later rounds.
2020 Fantasy Mock Draft, 12-Team PPR
1.01: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
1.02: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
1.03: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
1.04: Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
1.05: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
1.06: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
1.07: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
1.08: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
1.09: Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
1:10: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
1.11: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
1.12: Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
2.01: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
2.02: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
2.03: Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
2.04: Kenyan Drake, RB, Arizona Cardinals
2.05: Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
2.06: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
2.07: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
2.08: Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
2.09: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
2.10: Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
2.11: Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
2.12: George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
The first round is typically reserved for elite running backs and PPR machines at wide receiver. Seeing second-year Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders mocked in the first round is a bit surprising. While he certainly shined as a rookie, he hasn't proved himself to be an elite back just yet.
The 23-year-old had 818 rushing yards, 50 receptions and 509 receiving yards as a rookie, along with six touchdowns.
However, the bold decision to take Sanders early could pay off. The Eagles appear interested in giving him the opportunity to be the sort of every-down back who warrants a first-round selection, rather than part of a committee.
"I'm excited about him handling the full load. I don't see Miles as a guy that you have to monitor his touches," running backs coach Duce Staley said, via the team's official website. "I think you put him in, and you let him go."
Sanders can't be considered a sleeper, but he could be a sneaky smart early-round selection.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Seeing rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire near the top of Round 2 is also a bit surprising.
Rookie running backs are notoriously unpredictable, as they are not yet proven at the NFL level. Furthermore, Edwards-Helaire finds himself playing alongside the game's most prolific passer. There's no guarantee that he'll see a heavy workload in Year 1.
However, there is a big reason why the 21-year-old is a bold pick and not a dumb one. Fellow Chiefs running back Damien Williams has decided to opt out of the 2020 season, which means the rookie out of LSU could now see the bulk of the backfield work.
"We're going to get Clyde ready to play, and he's going to get ready to play," head coach Andy Reid said, per Pete Sweeney of Arrowhead Pride.
While Reid will likely still use a committee approach to the backfield—as he has done the past several seasons—Edwards-Helaire will likely be the head of that committee. Given the PPR value of being Patrick Mahomes' check-down option, he could justify a second-round selection.
Middle- and Late-Round Strategies
When preparing for fantasy drafts, it's smart to target your starting running backs and receivers early. There are only so many workhorse runners and legitimate No. 1 receivers to go around. Waiting too long to address your starting WR and RB slots can leave you lacking.
While there's nothing wrong with making a bold move for a quarterback like Mahomes or Lamar Jackson early, it's wise to have two starting running backs and two starting receivers by the end of Round 5.
It's also fine to wait on quarterbacks, and if you're not taking one of the top two passers, it's best to wait until after Round 5 to target a signal-caller.
Viable starters like Carson Wentz can be had much later in the draft—he has an average draft position (ADP) of 85, according to FantasyPros. Starters at other positions are much harder to land late.
Don't overdraft a tight end. There are only a handful worth taking in the early rounds—Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz and Darren Waller, specifically, and they can generally be valued as wide receivers rather than tight ends. Otherwise, it's smart to wait until the middle rounds for a tight end.
And unless you double-up on, say, Kittle and Kelce, don't plan to play a tight end in the flex slot.
When looking for middle-round sleepers, try to identify starting backs and top receivers on underwhelming teams. A top player on a bad offense can still be extremely valuable in fantasy. Miami Dolphins wideout DeVante Parker, for example, racked up 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Washington Football Team and the Miami Dolphins are ripe for the value picking this season.
Don't draft kickers from bad offenses, though, and don't draft a kicker before the second-last round. The drop-off at kicker is far less significant than it is at other positions until you get to the bottom 10 offenses or so. There's simply no reason to overdraft here.