In some ways, the major signings and — in particular — trades we’ve seen over the past week have shifted the NFL landscape far more than the fantasy one. After all, a player such as Odell Beckham is going to be a stud no matter what team he’s on, whereas the Giants’ and Browns’ offenses are set to look a lot different this season.
Still, that swap and other moves have caused major fantasy ripples, which we’ll get into with a two-round, .5-PPR mock draft and an evaluation of some players not in the top 24. However, one of the biggest pieces of news came earlier this month, when unconfirmed reports emerged that Todd Gurley had arthritis in his left knee, the one that slowed him at the end of the 2018 season and in the playoffs and in which he suffered a ligament tear while at Georgia.
Given that Gurley was the consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts this year just as he was in 2018, concerns about his health and possible workload are no small thing. As you’ll see, they’re great enough that he takes a tumble down the board in this exercise, but it’s important to keep in mind that we have a LONG way to go until Week 1 — including the draft, of course — with plenty of more information to come.
Two-round mock draft
- Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants — Was every bit as advertised in Year 1 and will be unquestioned focal point of Giants’ attack, even if touchdowns might be harder to come by.
- Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys — Has led NFL in rushing yards per game in each of his three seasons and made a huge leap in receptions last year that restored him to elite status.
- Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints — Mark Ingram has been replaced by the less talented Latavius Murray in New Orleans, meaning that Kamara, who went bonkers when Ingram was out the first four weeks last year, should get a workload bump.
- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers — Second last year among RBs in half-point PPR, he made good on Carolina’s promise to use him in workhorse capacity.
- Todd Gurley, RB, Rams — At this early juncture, Los Angeles seems likely to have some sort of backfield timeshare to spare Gurley wear and tear, but his talent and overall situation remain exceedingly strong.
- James Conner, RB, Steelers — With Antonio Brown traded to Oakland, Pittsburgh has all the more reason to feed Conner, although Jaylen Samuels may have earned an appreciable role.
- Le’Veon Bell, RB, Jets — If the mantra in real estate is, “Location, location, location,” in fantasy it’s, “Volume, volume, volume,” and Bell will have plenty of that. Oh, and he’s still just 27 and, as you might have heard, had a year’s worth of rest.
- Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers — The last of the RBs who are plausible bets to finish No. 1, Gordon has had some trouble finishing seasons but none getting touches.
- Davante Adams, WR, Packers — Last season’s WR1 seems like a good bet to repeat given that he’s far and away Aaron Rodgers’s best receiving option.
- DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans — At least 95 catches, 1,375 yards and 11 TDs in three of his past four seasons, the other of which featured Brock Osweiler.
- Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals — Yards per carry leaped in 2018 to 4.9 from 3.5 and he has the talent to take another step forward, particularly with a new, offensive-minded head coach.
- Julio Jones, WR, Falcons — Always a yardage maven, Jones shook off an unhappy narrative by scoring a respectable eight TDs last year.
- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns — By going from Eli Manning to Baker Mayfield, Beckham could explode in a suddenly unstoppable offense, but there are some other mouths to feed in Cleveland.
- Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs — Worries that he might not be able to keep up his remarkable pace of big plays fell away as Patrick Mahomes showed he could — and would — find Hill anywhere on the field.
- Michael Thomas, WR, Saints — Caught an absurd 125 passes on 147 targets in 2018 and is a very safe pick, if one without an excitingly high ceiling.
- Antonio Brown, WR, Raiders — Should get targets galore with his new team, and Derek Carr may not be much of a downgrade after Ben Roethlisberger had a surprising amount of trouble connecting with him last year.
- Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs — With the seeming sure things at RB and WR off the board, now’s the time to pay up for the top TE and get a huge piece of that tasty Kansas City offense.
- David Johnson, RB, Cardinals — Coming off an RB10 finish even as everything fell apart in Arizona, and Kliff Kingsbury should be able to dial up more big plays, even if Josh Rosen remains at QB.
- Nick Chubb, RB, Browns — Would be a lock for top-five status if Cleveland hadn’t signed Kareem Hunt. Still should rack up TDs and could single-handedly win weeks while Hunt serves an expected suspension.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers — Takes over as top WR in Pittsburgh after looking better than Brown more than a few times last season, but questions linger about his ability to defeat coverage stacked against him.
- Dalvin Cook, RB Vikings — So much to like if he weren’t so injury-prone over his first two seasons. Not for the faint of heart here, but reward could be massive.
- Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles — Would have finished as the WR9 last season and gets back QB Carson Wentz, who made headlines in Philly for over-targeting Ertz as some saw it.
- Aaron Jones, RB Packers — Hiring of new Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur provides hope that the explosive Jones will get more work.
- Mike Evans, WR Buccaneers — Notched a career-high 1,524 receiving yards in 2018, then saw DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries leave in free agency.
Others of note — stock up
Evan Engram, TE, Giants — Pushing for top-five consideration at TE with Beckham gone, although addition of Golden Tate didn’t help his cause.
Devin Funchess, WR, Colts — Terrific complement across from T.Y. Hilton and could notch double-digit TDs.
Mark Ingram, RB, Ravens — Figures to get most carries in heavily ground-based attack.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars — Replacing Blake Bortles with Nick Foles can only help the Jags’ offense, right?
Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers — Will benefit even more than Evans from departures of Jackson and Humphries.
Vance McDonald, TE, Steelers — Should get more looks with Brown gone and makes for a nice late-round flier.
Others of note — stock down
Gus Edwards, RB, Ravens — See Ingram, above.
Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, 49ers RBs — Some speculation that San Francisco could cut McKinnon in the wake of signing Coleman but as things stand now, this is the kind of three-headed monster that causes headaches in fantasy.
David Njoku, TE, Browns — Talent and situation are great, it’s just that Beckham pushes him down the pecking order for targets.
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