Dynasty League Startup Mock Draft (Fantasy Football)
While we still have three real games remaining in the 2018 NFL season, fantasy owners are left looking ahead to 2019 draft preparation. When it comes to dynasty draft prep for those in startup leagues, your work is never done. From the incoming rookie class to targeting sleepers to snag late, owners need to take present and future into consideration.
Our writers got together and conducted a one-round snake dynasty league startup draft to give you a sense of some of the top dynasty assets entering 2019 drafts. This is for a PPR league featuring one starting QB. Here are the results.
1) Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)
For the first round of a dynasty startup draft, there’s no need to look past the obvious choice. Saquon Barkley does more than check all the boxes. We’ll start with volume. In his rookie season, Barkley had the sixth highest opportunity share and was matchup proof due to his dual-threat abilities. In 2018, he tallied 261 carries and received 121 targets, top three marks in both categories. Efficiency: Despite a poor run-blocking O-line (29th per FootballOutsiders), the former Nittany Lion recorded the most total yards created and evaded the most tackles. He also accounted for the No. 2 dominator rating in the league and had a top-10 juke rate. Team Situation: Already established as the centerpiece of the NYG offense, his rookie contract is the sixth richest running back deal in the NFL and comes with the highest guarantee in the league. When the 2019 season rolls around Barkley will be just 22 years old and is in no danger of having any competition in the near future. Just as advertised, Barkley proved to be the monster we were all sold he would be. He deserves to be the anchor of any lucky 1.01 owning dynasty team looking to dominate now and into the future.
Etan Mozia (@FF_Wonderkid)
2) Tyreek Hill (WR – KC)
Few things were more obvious than Tyreek Hill being a screaming value in 2018. After a 2017 season that saw him post a 75-1183-7 line with Alex Smith at quarterback, the upgrade to Patrick Mahomes and his gunslinger style raised Hill’s already high ceiling even higher. It just didn’t make any sense that a team’s WR1 would see so few targets as Hill’s 105 in 2017. It should have come as no surprise that his target count shot up to 137 in 2018. The increase in both volume and efficiency led to a WR6 finish where Hill averaged 20 PPR ppg. The best part is we still haven’t seen Hill’s ceiling. Running backs emerge every year, but truly game-breaking WRs are difficult to find. Anchoring my dynasty team, I want a player that is capable of winning me weeks even without huge volume. No one encapsulates that position greater than Tyreek Hill. He finished third in fantasy points per route run and fifth in air yards. At just 25 years old, Hill is going to be an elite WR for at least five or six more years, possibly more. Tethered to the best young QB in an air raid offense, this is a can’t-fail pick.
Jason Katz (@jasonkatz13)
3) DeAndre Hopkins (WR – HOU)
As matchup-proof as they come, DeAndre Hopkins should be the top receiver selected in dynasty leagues and could have an argument for being the top player overall. Nuk finished the season third in receptions (115), second in receiving yards(1,572), and fifth in receiving touchdowns (11). In 2018, Hopkins was consistency personified. He didn’t score less than 12.4 points in any week during the regular season. It was the third time in four years Hopkins has scored double-digit touchdowns. He’s also consistently active on game day, having missed only one game in his NFL career. Hopkins is less than a year older than Odell Beckham and Michael Thomas and has a bit more certainty at quarterback over the next three years than the other two receivers.
Matt Giraldi (@Mgiraldi)
4) Christian McCaffrey (RB – CAR)
In Dynasty, the first round of a startup draft is where you land a player to be the foundation of your team. There is no better choice than the 22-year-old Christian McCaffrey (CMC). His 2018 production in all-purpose yards is reminiscent of elite Dynasty RB Marshall Faulk. In the 2018 season, CMC set the pace for all fantasy players with 374 PPR points, tied with Saquon Barkley. That total was higher than all other skill players aside from QBs. In fact, in most PPR scoring systems, only five QBs scored more fantasy points than CMC! Even with 17 rushing TDs, Todd Gurley trailed with 361 fantasy points. CMC tallied six receiving TDs and 867 yards on 107 receptions — more catches than any other RB. Not counting his carries, CMC would have been a high-end WR2 in the passing game alone, just ahead of Tyler Boyd, Tyler Lockett, and Amari Cooper. That’s impressive. Some say CMC is not a bell-cow RB. However, stats say otherwise. CMC finished the season with 219 attempts, 1,098 yards, and seven TDs. Only nine other RBs had more carries and only five had more rushing yards. Among RBs, he had the third-most red zone touches per game. Furthermore, only two other RBs had more touches than CMC. Additionally, CMC missed only 30 offensive snaps all season, having been on the field for more than 95% of Carolina snaps. That’s a workhorse back and his balanced, multi-purpose usage is sustainable.
Jeremy Browand (@DFF_Madman)
5) Todd Gurley (RB – LAR)
Gurley is coming off a dominant fantasy season during which he posted 1,831 total yards and 21 total touchdowns in just 14 games played. He checks all of the boxes owners want for a cornerstone player. He is only 24, has a strong offensive line, is surrounded by other offensive threats in Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp, and sees massive usage as a runner and receiver in a premier offense. All of these factors make Gurley an amazing value at the fifth pick of this dynasty draft.
6) Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)
Kamara seems like a no-brainer at this spot. He’s just entering his third season and although he’s been highly productive in his first two seasons, there’s not a ton of wear on the tires. The Tennessee product has averaged 81 receptions an over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in consecutive seasons and scored a ridiculous 31 TDs in that same span on just 476 combined touches. The departure of Mark Ingram should mean even more opportunities for Kamara in upcoming seasons, and I love having him as the cornerstone of my dynasty team.
Zak Hanshew (@ZaktheMonster)
7) Ezekiel Elliott (RB – DAL)
Elliott is my RB3 overall in dynasty after Saquon and Gurley. While the common strategy in dynasty startups has been to build around young receivers, I have found that I like my teams more when I lock in an elite, workhorse running back in the first round and then load up on receivers afterward. Elliott won’t turn 24 until July, meaning he reasonably has 4-5 more elite-level years ahead of him while running behind one of the better offensive lines in football. What really bolstered his value this season was his increased usage in the passing game. Zeke pulled in 77 catches in 2018, more than doubling his career-high set during his rookie campaign. The lack of passing game volume was one of the dynasty community’s concerns about Elliott before the season, but dynasty owners can feel good about the ability he showed in that aspect this past season. Once locking in Zeke as my RB1 for the foreseeable future, I would focus on filling in my receiving corps in the next 3-4 rounds.
Matt Terelle (@supermt)
8) Davante Adams (WR – GB)
Picking at eight I didn’t think there was any chance I would land Adams in a dynasty draft. Receivers are typically valued higher in dynasty leagues over redraft because they typically have longer careers than do RBs, and with all the top RBs gone, Adams is my WR1 for dynasty. He is coming off a monster fantasy season in which he scored double-digit fantasy points in all 16 games and his lowest point total was 16 (PPR) in Week 9 @ New England. He did all this with his QB Aaron Rodgers having one of his worst fantasy seasons in which he played all 16 games. Rodgers is still a top-five NFL QB and will be for at least three more years, if not longer. Give me his No. 1 target to build my dynasty team around.
Geoff Lambert (@GeoffLambert77)
9) Michael Thomas (WR – NO)
Thomas is coming off literally the most efficient season of the last 25 years — since the NFL began tracking targets in 1992, no receiver has come close to the 85% catch rate he just posted. To do that on such high volume (147 targets) is insane. Then again, most of what Thomas does is insane. In three seasons, he’s consistently racked up yards (at least 1,100 receiving yards every year), feasted in the red zone (45 receptions, 19 touchdowns), and finished no worse than WR7. Don’t be scared off by the impending post-Brees era — Thomas is a premier talent that anyone can throw to. Just 25 years old, he’s a locked-in WR1 for at least the next half-decade.
Scott Cedar (@scedar015)
10) Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)
At the 10th spot, we have already seen five running backs (Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara) and four wide reivers (Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams) selected, which leaves me at a difficult place in terms of strategy. Should I go with an Odell Beckham Jr. or JuJu Smith-Schuster? Or should I roll with a proverbial bell-cow back who has already proven he could handle a full workload and excel when healthy? While it sounds like I could be referring to David Johnson, who checks all the boxes, I’m not. I still have some questions about Johnson and the Cardinals that need to be answered this offseason before I can trust him as a first-round asset right now. For me, the next big fantasy running back poised to emerge is Joe Mixon. Entering his third season as a pro, Mixon, who will turn 23 on July 24, is a first-round talent who fell into the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft due to off-the-field concerns. He showed why he was considered a first-round prospect in 2018. Despite missing two games this season — Mixon has missed two games in each of his first two seasons in the league — he still managed to collect 1,464 total yards (296 receiving) and nine touchdowns (one receiving) on 280 touches (43 receptions) with a 5.2 yards per touch average. Mixon, the AFC’s leading rusher, would finish 2018 as standard scoring format’s RB9 (200.4 fantasy points) and PPR’s RB10 (243.4). With the Bengals zeroing in on an offensive-minded head coach — Cincinnati has yet to name a new head coach because their three leading candidates remain in the playoffs with their current clubs (Zac Taylor, Shane Waldron, Eric Bienemy) — Mixon appears primed to garner in excess of 300 touches in 2018. Taylor and Waldron both come from the Rams who feature Todd Gurley, and Bienemy comes from the Chiefs who featured Kareem Hunt as every-down backs, which would bode well for Mixon’s projected usage totals. When I can still get a volume wideout like Julio Jones or Mike Evans coming back in the second round, Mixon is the play at 1.10.
Anthony Cervino (@therealnflguru)
11) JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT)
This pick gets more enticing as each day goes by. With each new headline, it seems more likely that Antonio Brown isn’t going to be in Pittsburgh next season. And there’s even an argument to be made that Smith-Schuster was the better value in fantasy (dynasty and redraft leagues alike) in 2018. They averaged the same number of receptions per game (6.9) while Smith-Schuster averaged more receiving yards per game and a better catch percentage. If Brown is out of the picture, Smith-Schuster would immediately become the No. 1 target on the Steelers and would score more than he has his entire career. I don’t necessarily think I’d change this pick if Brown doesn’t go anywhere, but the rumors around a trade make it way more enticing.
12) Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – NYG)
While I was hoping for Joe Mixon to drop to 1.12, I now have the choice between Odell Beckham Jr., Le’Veon Bell, and Melvin Gordon. With back-to-back picks on hand, I choose to go with OBJ first. On pace for a career-high in receptions, Beckham remained heavily involved despite the addition of all-world running back Saquon Barkley. Fresh off of his highest yards per game and yards per reception since 2015, Beckham should be in line for a strong 2019 campaign regardless of who is under center for the Giants. Still as explosive as ever, per NextGenStats, Beckham was the only number one receiver in the entire NFL with an average of over 6.2 yards of cushion and three yards of separation. Only 26 years old, Beckham is a great ADP value with a lot of elite-level football ahead of him. OBJ serves as the start of a solid core for my dynasty squad.
Raju Byfield (@RajuByfield)