Way Too Early First Round Fantasy Football Rankings

Andrew Weidman

My yearly fantasy football money league talks are already starting, so I am instantly back into fantasy football mode. I’ve always considered myself a fantasy football expert, and the members of my league last year would agree, as my name was etched onto our title belt. Oh, and a big shout-out to George Kittle for the clutch performances down the stretch.

Most leagues are either ten or twelve players, with some leagues pushing 16. This first piece will breakdown how I would select picks 1-12, then in a later piece I’ll break down my position by position rankings.

These will be based off of standard PPR scoring. (nfl.com fanasy scoring)

Pick 1:

Saquon Barkley (RB) New York Giants

Don’t get caught up in picking your favorite player from your favorite team. As an Eagles fan, it pains me to say that Barkley is a stud, but the numbers don’t lie. Barkley was a stud last year, and the only real significany contributor on a poor Giants team, and not much will change in 2018. Whether it’s Eli Manning or Daniel Jones under center, the Giants will be leaning heavy on Barkley to shoulder the load offensively, and he is due forĀ  HUGE year.

2019 Predictions: 1,350 yards 12 touchdowns. 100 receptions 850 yards 7 touchdowns

Pick 2:

Christian McCaffery (RB) Carolina Panthers

McCaffery absolutey exploded last year, finishing tied for first in FPPG in PPR for running backs with Barkley. There were a few doubts about how his game would translate into the NFL against bigger players, but he quickly has silenced them. With Cam Newton not havingĀ  many great targets out wide, the Panthers have heavily relied on McCaffery on the ground and through the air. It hasn’t been decided yet if McCaffery will be doing pount and kick returns, or if Carolina will rely on DJ Moore. If so, McCaffery gets a boost to #1 in leagues with points for return yards.

2019 Predictions: 1,100 yards 9 touchdowns. 120 receptions 1,000 yards 6 touchdowns

Pick 3:

Alvin Kamara (RB) New Orleans Saints

Kamara has been absolutely phenomenal since busting into the NFL, and he has something even greater this year. No more Mark Ingram. With Ingram now in Baltimore, Kamara’s timeshare likely turns into an 80-20 with Latavius Murray, rather than the 60-40 it was with Ingram. He was always the primary pass catcher, but now he’s the clear cut #1 back. He finished 4th last year in that timeshare. Now he’ll likely challenge for the #1 spot. Once thought to be a one-trick pony, keep your eyes fixated on Kamara in the top five of your draft this year.

2019 Predictions: 950 yards 12 touchdowns 100 receptions 875 yards 6 touchdowns

Pick 4:

Ezekiel Elliot (RB) Dallas Cowboys

Another NFC East running back off the board. Much like Barkley, Elliot has been a workhorse back ever since he entered the league in 2016. However, his touchdown numbers were low last year, and he had as many rushing touchdowns (6) as his quarterback [Dak Prescott] recorded. Prescott’s ability to run in the redzone does hinder Elliot’s redzone touches, but he still racks up the yardage along the way. Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, along with the unretired Jason Witten, should allow the inside lanes to open up more for Elliot, increasing his workload.

2019 Predictions: 1300 yards 9 touchdowns 75 receptions 600 yards 4 touchdowns

Pick 5:

David Johnson (RB) Arizona Cardinals

What is a rookie quarterback’s best friend? A great running back. I am all aboard the David Johnson train! Other than the ageless Larry Fitzgerald, there is no one on the roster more suited to let rookie phenom Kyler Murray settle into the NFL. The Cardinals will run early and often; and when they need to pass, DJ is likely the target. Injury concerns are the only reason Johnson isn’t in my top three. His 2016 season was absolutely legendary, and he still produced solid numbers last year in what was a dumpster fire of a season for the Cardinals as a whole. Expect another 2016 performance out of Johnson as Kliff Kingsbury turns this offense around.

2019 Predictions: 1300 yards 16 touchdowns 85 receptions 900 yards 6 touchdowns

Pick 6:

DeAndre Hopkins (WR) Houston Texans

I am a big fan of going running back early and often, but Hopkins puts up consistently tremendous numbers that makes him the first wide receiver to be selected, especially with Tyreek Hill’s future still in the clouds. He has great hands, with only two drops last year, and is one of the best route runners in the NFL. He consistently beats double teams, creates his own space, and is a threat every time in the red zone. Watson loves to throw the ball, and Hopkins loves to catch. It’s a match made in heaven.

2019 Predictions: 120 receptions 1550 yards 12 touchdowns

Pick 7:

Todd Gurley (RB) Los Angeles Rams

Gurley still finished in the top five in scoring for running backs, despite missing two regular season games. He looked to maybe have been overworked, which could cause some concern leading into this season. The Rams have a high-powered offense with many weapons, including backup RB Malcolm Brown, who performed well in his opportunities. I expect Gurley’s production to dip slightly, but he remains a high end RB1.

2019 Predictions: 1150 yards 10 touchdowns 50 receptions 535 yards 4 touchdowns

Pick 8:

Davante Adams (WR) Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers in an elite level talent and has to throw the ball somewhere. That “somewhere” is Davante Adams. When Jordy Nelson left Green Bay, Adams took over as the primary receiver, and posted just over 110 receptions with just under 1,400 yards and double digit touchdowns. He’s always been a scorer (35 touchdowns in the past three seasons) The Green Bay receivers are young, with Adams being the “grizzled” veteran ahead of Geronimo Allison, EQ St. Brown, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. While those young bucks show promise, expect Rodgers to look to Adams every time he drops back to pass.

2019 Predictions: 110 receptions 1350 yards 13 touchdowns

Pick 9:

Le’Veon Bell (RB) New York Jets

Bell gets a fresh start, and with an entire year off, he should be extremely well rested to handle an intense workload to help his young quarterback. Darnold looked lost last year, and didn’t have a great ground game to rely on. That changes this year as Bell emerges back into the spotlight. He’ll have to adjust to a new system, and could potentially lose targets to Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell early on, but once he settles in, expect Bell to become the powerhouse we saw in Pittsburgh.

2019 Predictions: 1100 yards 11 touchdowns 75 receptions 625 yards 6 touchdowns

Pick 10:

James Conner (RB) Pittsburgh Steelers

Le’Veon Bell’s replacement in Pittsburgh saw himself have an outstanding season, finding the endzone often. Had he played the entire year, Conner would top 1,000 yards and possibly see himself approach 15 total touchdowns. I would expect him to eclipse those numbers this year, because with the loss of Antonio Brown, the Steelers could elect to utilize Conner out of the backfield often in the passing game, to take pressure off of Juju Smith Schuster.

2019 Predictions: 1050 yards 12 touchdowns 70 receptions 600 yards 4 touchdowns

Pick 11:

Julio Jones (WR) Atlanta Falcons

Jones didn’t find the endzone until week nine last year, despite racking up 100 yards in four of those games, thanks to Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu stealing the majority of them. Despite that, Jones finished with a respectable eight touchdowns, along with over 1,600 yards. Jones is still an elite talent, but his inability to score holds him back just a touch.

2019 Predictions: 115 receptions 1500 yards 7 touchdowns

Pick 12:

Melvin Gordon (RB) Los Angeles Chargers

The last pick of the first round goes to Gordon, despite Austin Ekeler stealing targets. Gordon missed four games last year, but shouldn’t have an issue with his sprained MCL that kept him out. He’ll get the lionshares of rushing attempts (close to 90%) and should still get around 65% of the teams targets in the backfield. Ekeler’s success through the air and on third down does draw back from Gordon, but his ability to score is what makes him a solid RB1 and a first round selection. If he plays in those four games, he likely goes into the top five in overall fantasy points last year.

2019 Predictions: 1050 yards 11 touchdowns 55 receptions 570 yards 4 touchdowns