2019 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Draft Strategy (Picks 1.01-1.04)

by Raju Byfield | @FantasyContext | Featured Writer
May 9, 2019

Miles Sanders can realize his RB2 upside if he can carve out a lead back role in Philly’s backfield

With the NFL Draft now in the books, dynasty owners are already researching, and even drafting. There truly is no offseason for hardcore dynasty fantasy football enthusiasts. With that in mind, we will take a look at draft strategies for dynasty owners who find themselves with a top-four rookie draft pick. We will touch on the candidates, and break down which directions owners may want to go with each pick, and even analyze how things change in superflex formats.

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The Candidates

Top Four (Based on DLF ADP)

Josh Jacobs (RB – OAK)
Jacobs landed in the best situation of any running back in this class. He has a wide open depth chart, especially with the underrated Isaiah Crowell lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles. While Jalen Richard and the newly signed Doug Martin will see some touches, Josh Jacobs will operate in a lead back role. He should see close to 20 touches per game, which he should maintain as long as he remains the top talent in the backfield. The Raiders’ offense now seems competent enough to sustain drives, which helps ease any gameflow concerns dynasty owners may have had with their offense last season.

Jacobs has an every-down skill set that he was never able to put on true display in college due to playing with two NFL talents in Najee Harris and New England Patriots third-round pick, Damien Harris. He shined in the analytical department with 4.09 yards after contact per attempt, and 0.26 forced missed tackles per carry, and should be a top-tier RB2 out of the gate.

N’Keal Harry (WR – NE)
Harry was one of the draft’s biggest winners in terms of landing spot. The Patriots’ offensive philosophy is tailor-made for his skill set. Harry can function as the team’s downfield receiver due to his ability to box out receivers and win 50/50 balls. He can also act as an extension of the run game on screens and other short or horizontal routes due to his ability after the catch. One of the highest ceiling rookies due to team and scheme, Harry has immediate WR1 upside.

Miles Sanders (RB – PHI)
Put on some Miles Sanders college film and you will see shades of Saquon Barkley. Sanders is not close to the talent level of Barkley, but did have the fortune of being able to watch and learn from him while they were teammates at Penn State. Sanders landed in one of the best fantasy spots for 2019. The Philadelphia Eagles have been desperate for an answer at running back and appear to have found one in Sanders.

However, the Eagles’ depth chart is very crowded and could welcome draft additions in 2020. Sanders is an impressive back who posted 846 yards after contact for 3.85 per attempt. He has an every down skill set, and should quickly ascend to be the lead back in a crowded Eagles depth chart. Sanders has RB2 upside as long as he is the most talented back on the Eagles’ roster.

David Montgomery (RB – CHI)
Montgomery landed in the perfect situation. Compared to Kareem Hunt during the pre-draft process, he landed with Hunt’s old offensive coordinator in Matt Nagy. Montgomery will see his reception upside capped with Tarik Cohen in town, but he still projects to see 16-18 touches per game. Like Jacobs, Montgomery ran a sub 4.6 40, but wins with physicality, determination, and contact balance.

Montgomery forced an amazing 100 missed tackles in 2018, good for 0.38 per attempt, both marks that led the nation. He has an every down skill set, but may never be an elite snap share back like Christian McCaffrey was in 2018. Montgomery is an elusive and slippery back who can break tackles with the best of them.

Also in the Mix

A.J. Brown (WR – TEN)
Arguably the most talented receiver in the draft class and drew comparisons to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Brown is firmly in the mix as a top-four pick. His ADP of 5.60 is just 0.6 behind Montgomery. He has gone as high as third overall in DLF mocks.

Brown is a talented receiver who can win both inside and out, but he may see his upside capped unless Marcus Mariota takes a leap, or the Titans move on from him in 2020. Brown will likely function as the offense’s 1B behind Corey Davis. If Brown sees the bulk of his receptions out of the slot, he has a good chance to corral more passes than Davis yearly.

Marquise Brown (WR – BAL)
Brown is a DeSean Jackson-like receiver who offers even more in the short game. Landing on a run-first team is not ideal for his dynasty value, but he landed a number one job with a quarterback that coaxed solid production from UDFA addition Jaylen Smith while at Louisville. Smith ran a lot of the same routes we expect to see from Brown, and Lamar Jackson was able to get him the ball time and time again. Brown is a dark horse option for the top four for managers that opt for talent and upside over a high floor.

Parris Campbell (WR – IND)
Campbell was a major winner on draft day and landed in an offense perfectly suited for his strengths. The Colts like to build rhythm by completing short passes, and this is exactly where Campbell shined in college. He has been one of the more divisive receiver prospects due to being targeted on screens, outs ,or jet sweeps 45 percent of the time. These routes accounted for 49.5 percent of his total receptions in 2018.

This does not mean that he did not go deep, but just that he did not record many downfield receptions with Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon operating in that area of the field. Campbell is tied to an elite quarterback and, with T.Y. Hilton in town, will not be forced into many go routes. Campbell profiles as a YAC monster who should be considered as high as 1.03.

D.K. Metcalf (WR – SEA)
Metcalf dropped precipitously on draft day. He lasted until pick 56, a far cry from the top two or three selection some discussed him as. While he was always more of a second-round prospect, antennas were raised when he lasted past 50th overall. However, this was a stroke of tremendous luck for the talented, but raw receiver. He landed with the perfect quarterback to unlock his upside in Russell Wilson.

Metcalf could step into an immediate role in three-wide sets and has one of the most accurate deep ball passers in league history. Not only that, but Wilson can buy Metcalf time to separate with his trademark ability to move the pocket and keep plays alive downfield. There is literally no better place he could have landed, which puts him squarely in the mix as a consideration any time after Jacobs and Harry are off the board.

Who Should You Select?

Pick 1.01
This is where you draft Jacobs. There really should be no debate unless you are an owner who discounts running backs due to their shorter shelf lives. This pick is as much about eliminating the other options as it about Jacobs himself. David Montgomery is stuck with the talented Tarik Cohen siphoning touches and capping his upside. In 2019, he will have to contend with Mike Davis potentially vulturing short-yardage work, and will eventually face competition for snaps from Devin Singletary’s explosive college backup in Kerrith Whyte Jr.

Plus, Miles Sanders is stuck in a timeshare of his own, and much like Montgomery, he profiles as a career committee back as opposed to a workhorse. Finally, N’Keal Harry looks like an elite option, at least until Tom Brady retires. That uncertainty leaves Jacobs as, for all intents and purposes, the lone consideration at 1.01.

Pick 1.02
This is where the true debate begins. Based on DLF ADP, N’Keal Harry should be the pick at 1.02, and it is hard not to concur. However, David Montgomery should also be considered with this pick. Here you are generally weighing Tom Brady’s retirement or decline risk versus the upside limiting presence of Tarik Cohen in Chicago.

Both Harry and Montgomery project as fantasy difference makers, but Harry landed in the more ideal scenario and scheme. The Patriots’ offense is perfect for his blend of downfield skills, and ability after the catch. One of the biggest draft day winners, Harry should be the pick at 1.02 if he is still on the board.

Pick 1.03
The debate at pick 1.03 will come down to David Montgomery versus Miles Sanders. Sanders is the pick based on ADP, but Montgomery seems to have found himself in a superior landing spot. The Bears’ backfield is more of a Sony Michel and James White scenario than it is an Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram committee.

The Eagles’ backfield is currently a mess. Sanders is expected to secure the lead back role, but will see touches siphoned from not only Jordan Howard, but Josh Adams as well. Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood currently both remain on the roster and are lurking presences that can limit his weekly upside. Your selection here will come down to both personal preference and your take on the long-term viability of either player as a lead or feature back.

Pick 1.04
Pick 1.04 is the wild card slot. Many drafts will see either David Montgomery or Miles Sanders taken at this spot. Some, however, will feature a number of the other names mentioned above. Marquise Brown, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, and even T.J. Hockenson will likely be considered here by some owners. DLF ADP has Sanders as the 1.03 and Montgomery as the 1.04.

Regardless, based on their draft data, we can see that names like A.J. Brown, D.K Metcalf, and T.J. Hockenson have already made their way into the top four in some drafts. In my current dynasty rookie rankings, I have A.J. in my top four, more than 10 spots ahead of Sanders. With that said, ADP dictates that if one of the alternative players mentioned is your target, then you may be able to trade down a spot and collect an extra asset or two.

Superflex
As any owner who has played the superflex format can tell you, the ability to start a second QB changes everything. In superflex formats, Kyler Murray is in the mix at 1.01 and every pick thereafter. Dwayne Haskins should also be considered in the top four, especially for QB-needy teams.

In my first post-NFL Draft rookie draft of the season, Murray went 1.01, and Haskins went 1.04 to fellow FantasyPros writer Eli Weiner (@EWeinerFantasy). He made the shrewd move of calculating the costs of moving to pick 1.02 or 1.03, and realized that the cost would be prohibitive as owners in those spots had their hearts set on Josh Jacobs and N’Keal Harry. There is a perceptible gap between the first and second tier of rookies, and Eli was able to trade into the perfect spot to ensure he landed Haskins.

Kyler Murray is currently the first player off of the board in superflex mocks, while Dwayne Haskins sits at seventh in ADP. This is a drastic change for two players who have not even cracked the top 10 outside of superflex rookie drafts. This helps to accentuate the value contrast in this format and is something to bear in mind for your own drafts.

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Raju Byfield is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, check out his profile and follow him @FantasyContext.

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