The NFL season is starting Thursday and because of that many fantasy drafts are starting right beforehand. In this piece, I give you the perfect strategy to attack your next 10-man fantasy football draft as well as give you a perfect mock for picking fifth in this said league.
To start we will be drafting a standard PPR league
Round 1: Go with a RB no matter what the temptation is at WR.
Look, it’s going to be hard to sit there and justify not picking a player that didn’t drop a pass all of last year in DeAndre Hopkins or even arguably the best wideout in the game today Odell Beckham Jr. now as he will be catching passes from Baker Mayfield. However, do not pigeonhole yourself where you run out of options at running back. Here’s the issue this year like many years, the number of bell cow backs are diminishing. This is your opportunity to lock up a guaranteed three-down back and secure a true starter for your team.
Besides the fact of picking an elite receiver, you have to keep in mind there are at least 64 starting receivers in today’s game. When you factor in how many teams line up with three receivers it just adds more value to the position. You are playing with 10 players in your league, do not overthink this. While there maybe 32 teams, there aren’t even 32 true starting running backs. Here’s a list of the true starting running backs to grab early on that are guaranteed starters and are considered “bell cows”
- Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
- Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
- Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
- David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
- Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
- Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
- Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets
- Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
- Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
- James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
- Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
- Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
- Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers*
- Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
You can certainly argue some but this isn’t even a full half of the league that has guaranteed starters when healthy. Pick a starting running back and kick off your draft the right way.
My pick: Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets (4)
I would highly advise going with Le’Veon Bell a little earlier than the pre-draft listing. There are going to be guys like Conner, Elliott and even David Johnson available. Bell is the guy in New York, they paid him long-term and he’s going to be a big-time security blanket for young Sam Darnold. I would not be surprised to see Bell rack up over 400 touches this season especially when his backup is solid but not threatening Bilal Powell. Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson are solid receivers but there isn’t much in New York that will take away from the food on Bell’s plate. In addition to that, Conner will have some touches taken away by sleeper running back Jaylen Samuels, rookie running back Tony Pollard is a real threat to Elliott’s workload and Johnson has struggled with injuries over the last two years while Chase Edmonds is waiting patiently for another one to take over. Bell is primed for a huge year.
Round 2: RB or WR but put a heavy emphasis on a back that doesn’t have the same bye week as your first RB
This is tougher because the next time around you could see an Odell Beckham Jr. or Davante Adams fall into your lap. You need to weigh your options. In my mock draft here Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown were the best receivers left over. I had Nick Chubb and Joe Mixon available who both do not share the same bye week as Bell (4).
My pick: Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns (7)
It’s tough here but I went with Nick Chubb because the backups around him aren’t threatening besides Kareem Hunt who won’t be back until much later in the season. Plus, I think Cleveland’s offense will be on the field and have a lot more opportunities than the Cincinnati offense. Chubb’s ability as a pure runner mixed with his receiving ability makes him the pick here. I like the receivers available but I still feel like there are just so many great receivers available.
Round 3: Stick to RB or WR. It doesn’t matter who you took last round, you go with the best of the two positions.
So in this round, I’ve seen Patrick Mahomes go here and let me just say this: resist thy urges! Mahomes is phenomenal, I love his game and that has been true since his days at Texas Tech. However, the way the quarterbacks are valued in fantasy this year makes it so easy to wait and draft one much later on. Right now, you can gain a huge advantage in the league if you choose to grab another running back with a different bye week. There is a chance you can grab three bell cows in the first three picks and that is something exciting. However, if you are like me and haven’t yet drafted a receiver, this is the time you can consider one. I have a tough decision to make with Antonio Brown, Keenan Allen, Chris Carson, Kerryon Johnson, Devonta Freeman, and George Kittle.
My pick: Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders (6)
It’s just too hard to pass up one of the most consistent receivers of the last decade. Brown may not be with Ben Roethlisberger anymore but he didn’t forget how to be one of the league’s best receivers. I may not be a huge fan of his off-field antics and I may worry a little bit about him abruptly retiring after the whole off-season debacle but with great risk comes great reward and Brown can be the biggest reward here in the third. With only Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow in his way at receiver, Brown will easily be the number one target and has already built great chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr.
Round 4: Best non-QB available
Again, I know you may want to “outsmart” your league and go with the signal-caller here that is guaranteed to finish top five in points but don’t. We have selected two bell-cow running backs and one of the league’s best receivers. It’s getting to be that tough zone where a player you don’t expect to drop will. In this instance, Chris Carson has fallen to the next round along with Sony Michel, Julian Edelman, Mark Ingram, Brandin Cooks, Chris Godwin, Melvin Gordon, Robert Woods, and Tyler Lockett. With this round being relatively split with running backs and receivers taken, I had the tough choice to make. Had George Kittle made it to this pick, that would have been my pick.
My pick: Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks (11)
I decided to grab another bell cow that simply should not have fallen into my lap in the fourth round. You might think I’m wrong in thinking this because of Rashaad Penny but Carson is just the superior back in Seattle. Penny will get his touches but not enough to not call Carson the starter. Now, I should be set with running backs for a bit with all of them on different bye weeks.
Round 5: Wide receiver
This is a round that sets up all too well to select a high-value receiver. If you waited, you likely have the likes of Chris Godwin, Tyler Lockett, Mike Williams, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Boyd and Jarvis Landry available. Every name I just mentioned is a starting receiver. To this point, you should have at least one receiver and maybe two.
My pick: Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7)
Godwin is going to break out in year three under Bruce Arians. This is the player that I loved in the NFL Draft but unfortunately, he was behind Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson on the depth chart. Now, Godwin is only behind Evans and is primed for a huge year in Tampa Bay. I like the potential selection of Patriots receiver Josh Gordon here but seeing as I only have one receiver to this point, I chose to go with less of a risk in Godwin.
Round 6: Wide receiver or Tight end
You are in round six and at this point, you should either have two running backs and three receivers or three running backs and two receivers. Perhaps you took a tight end like George Kittle earlier and if you did great. However, if you haven’t taken a tight end yet, I would grab one here. This is right around the time you have Derrick Henry who is a bit of risk as he shares the spotlight with Dion Lewis and has battled injury. You’ll also have Tyler Boyd who had a great year but you would like to not find out whether or not it was a one-year wonder. This is also likely the last round you can get a tier two tight end before it becomes a big drop off or bigger risk.
My pick: O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7)
It’s between O.J. Howard and Evan Engram. I don’t think you can go wrong if you need a tight end in round six and I think this is more based on personal preference. For me, I think Howard has higher upside, is in a better offense and has a better offensive mind that will know how to get him the ball. Drafting Howard here does pigeonhole me into the fact that now I will need to replace two starters come week seven as he and Godwin share a bye. However, Howard is too good to pass up here.
Round 7: RB, WR or TE but no QB
Am I crazy? Maybe. Just hear me out. Right now, you have quarterbacks such as Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz and Drew Brees as the best available. If you are higher than the consensus on someone like Lamar Jackson, Jared Goff or even Sam Darnold, then why spend a premium seventh-round pick here. The ones that do might be the ones offering you a trade for the player you took at this very pick.
My pick: Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins (10)
It’s pretty awesome when you can grab four starting running backs that have different bye weeks. It allows you enormous versatility which is vital during a long fantasy season. Derrius Guice missed all of the 2018 season but he’s back this year and it’s become clear that he will be the starter in Washington despite Adrian Peterson‘s resurgence last year and Chris Thompson‘s existence. Guice is going to be a fantasy star and you could potentially grab him in round seven while someone grabs Matt Ryan.
Round 8: Hold off on QB still. Grab Best Player Available (BPA)
Yes, again, you want to hold off that urge. The way this year is for quarterbacks you can land a great value starter that will give you 20 points or more per game if you just wait and trust me on this. While everyone else is scrambling to grab maybe even their backup quarterback here, you can bolster that roster with some more depth. There are going to be loads of wide receiver two’s and timeshare backs. However, there are going to be some key starters you might want to grab here.
My pick: Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (11)
Remember now, I only have two receivers and I grab my third here in the eighth round. Sterling Shepard is not a super flashy pick but for whatever reason people are forgetting how impressive he was his rookie year and how he’s arguably gotten better each year. The former Oklahoma Sooner is the guy next to Golden Tate who will be suspended to start the season. Relying on Eli Manning to deliver touchdown strikes to Shepard isn’t the most confident thing I can put myself in, however, I’m a big fan of Shepard in year four in a year he finally breaks the 1,000-yard mark. Plus, he has an attractive week 11 bye that allows him to fill in for either of my starting receivers.
Round 9: BPA
I’m not going to say you can’t draft a quarterback here but I still would hold off as Jared Goff, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger should all still be available. This is a true best player available type of round.
My pick: Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears (6)
I went with Robinson who has the same bye as Antonio Brown but since Sterling Shepard has a week 11 bye, I will make out just fine. It’s hard to pass on by far the number one receiver in Chicago. Robinson has been disappointing and the reason is due to the injuries he’s battled but in an offense that figures to get better under Matt Nagy, I will grab the best available receiver here.
Round 10: Take that quarterback if you haven’t yet.
So to this point, I have not selected a quarterback but I find myself with four starting-caliber running backs that do not share the same bye, four starting receivers that have two that share a bye and one of the best tight ends of the second-tier in fantasy. At this point, I can choose who I want out of Jared Goff, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady, and so many other options. You can see now why I wanted to wait.
My pick: Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (9)
Sorry for being biased but Jared Goff is going to break out in a big way this season. I have him as the runner-up in the MVP voting. Goff has Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Gerald Everett, and Tyler Higbee. That’s arguably the most weapons any quarterback has in the league today. Goff is going into year three in Sean McVay‘s system which has seen him grow in a big way each year. Grabbing a guy I believe will finish top three in quarterback scoring in the 10th round is beyond getting your bang for your buck.
Round 11: BPA
Now that you have your quarterback, you have your whole offensive starting lineup figured out and you have some depth. It’s time to…add more depth. I have four receivers and four running backs along with one quarterback and one tight end. You want to draft whoever fits your bill as the best available.
My pick: Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills (6)
Don’t ask me how I did it but with the draft selection of Devin Singletary, I do not have one bye week that is shared across five running backs. Plus, all of these guys are starting. Singletary is expected to share with Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon but will be the lead guy in the backfield. With the roster cut of LeSean McCoy, Singletary’s value has reached another level and I would make the argument he has a real shot to win the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Round 12: Get creative
Seems like a strange strategy right? Well, at this point, if you are playing the same type of roster limit, players and type of scoring as the one I’m mocking here. You will see that only three spots are remaining. Do not draft a kicker or a defense here. Please don’t do that. With the way, I have the roster there are only one quarterback and one tight end on my team. Here’s the deal, I’m done with wideout and I’m done with running backs. However, I am not done with either tight end or quarterback. As a matter of fact, whatever you decide here will be how you want to play the waiver wire when it comes time to find someone to relieve your player’s bye week. In this case, there are only 10 teams and unless someone was obnoxious and picked three quarterbacks, you should have a fairly healthy group of signal-callers remaining.
Here’s what I have available at QB:
- Kyler Murray
- Philip Rivers
- Dak Prescott
- Kirk Cousins
- Mitch Trubisky
- Josh Allen
- Jimmy Garoppolo
- Derek Carr
- Sam Darnold
- Matthew Stafford
- Jacoby Brissett
- Marcus Mariota
- Nick Foles
None of those guys share the same bye week as Jared Goff. Now, I have some thinking to do. However, I look at the tight end group and you still have some good tight ends but it’s not as deep as the quarterback position. So, as crazy as it may seem, I’m perfectly okay in a 10-team league bypassing a backup quarterback out of the gate and bolstering the tight end position here. With T.J. Hockenson available along with Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron, Delanie Walker, and Jordan Reed there is a lot to work with. Not one of them shares a bye with my current tight end O.J. Howard.
My pick: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (5)
This might be shocking to some especially with the touchdown monster in Eric Ebron remaining. However, I look at it like this. Yes, it’s tough for a rookie to break out at the tight end position. However, Hockenson is one of the best tight end prospects that have come around. I like the fit in Detroit and I know he’s going to start this year but he will take a bit as Jesse James gets the starting nod to start the year. However, with Howard on a bye week during the week seven period, I imagine Hockenson will have won the job from James by now and might be a focal point of the offense. With the Lions bye week coming before Howard’s there will be a chance for the Lions to easily transition over to the eighth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Round 13: Defense
This one is entirely preference. You just need to wait until the second to last round to select a defense.
My pick: Green Bay Packers Defense/Special Teams (11)
The Packers defense isn’t even getting drafted in most leagues and I’m just not sure why. This is the best defense Aaron Rodgers has had in his career and it’s coached by Mike Pettine who is one of the best defensive coordinators. Look, I would give the Bills an honorable mention here as Sean McDermott has done a stellar job with that unit but they weren’t available.
With a defense that showcases Kenny Clark, Montravius Adams, Preston Smith, Oren Burks, Blake Martinez, Za’Darius Smith. Ty Summers, Rashan Gary, Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Kevin King, Tramon Williams, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage Jr. I just find it extremely hard to believe this won’t be one of the best in football. Now, will this defense generate a ton of turnovers? That’s what it’s all about in fantasy. Now, the Packers finished with a measly eight interceptions last year which didn’t make them a force as a fantasy defense. However, I’ll chalk that up to one disappointing year. With the additions of Savage (who brought in seven interceptions his last two years in college) and Amos who brought in two interceptions last year, there is a good chance that number will improve.
Let’s not forget Alexander had five interceptions in a season in college while Jackson had eight in his last season of college. Last year was likely a bad year and it all comes together for the Mike Pettine coached Packers defense in 2019.
Round 14: Kicker…Always a kicker in the last round.
Again, this is personal preference. I normally go with the best kicker available or I decide based on how explosive the team the kicker is on is expected to be. For instance, Greg Zuerlein is a no-brainer but because of that he’s likely not going to be there. It’s a risk with Austin Seibert, the rookie out of Oklahoma because he’s a rookie but Cleveland should be scoring a ton this year. I think if you want stability and consistency you should look at guys like Wil Lutz, Jason Myers, and Jake Elliott.
My pick: Jason Myers, Seattle Seahawks (11)
Like I said. This is all personal preference. For me, Jason Myers is being quite possibly the most underrated at kicker. Last year he went 33 of 36 with the New York Jets which involved Myers going 6 of 7 from beyond 50 yards. That is an impressive line. For whatever reason, the Jets did not want him back and so he signed a four-year deal to kick in Seattle. This preseason, Myers blew his competition Sam Ficken out of the water. There was some worry when he missed a 56-yarder wide right but he came back to hit the next six straight field goals including one from 58 yards out. He was a Pro Bowler last season and with his ability, he’s going to have more chances to put points on the board in Seattle.
QB Jared Goff, LAR (9)
RB Le’Veon Bell, NYJ (4)
RB Nick Chubb, CLE (7)
WR Antonio Brown, OAK (6)
WR Chris Godwin, TB (7)
TE O.J. Howard, TB (7)
FLEX Chris Carson, SEA (11)
D/ST Green Bay Packers (11)
K Jason Myers (11)
BENCH: RB Derrius Guice, WAS (10)
BENCH: WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (11)
BENCH: WR Allen Robinson, CHI (6)
BENCH: Devin Singletary, BUF (6)
BENCH: T.J. Hockenson, DET (5)