The 5 Safest Players to Draft at Their ADP (2019 Fantasy Football)
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A couple of weeks ago I took a look at the riskiest players who you could take in the first few rounds of the draft. This week, I want to look at the safest. Even in the first round of your draft, some players represent much safer options and come with significantly higher floors. While it’s great to take a few risks throughout your draft, it’s tough to recover if you strike out with your first or second-round pick. Let’s identify some safe options to target in the early rounds of your draft.
Julio Jones (WR – ATL)
Current ADP: 10
The top running backs (Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Ezekiel Elliott if he signs before the season) are also very safe picks, but I wanted to start further down the line where people may actually need to be convinced. Julio Jones is the safest wide receiver you can draft because he doesn’t need touchdowns to return value. He’s had five seasons in a row with at least 1,400 yards receiving, and only once in his last six seasons did he fail to average at least 100 yards per game (in 2017 he averaged 90 yards per game). With Jones, you start with a double-digit floor whether he finds the end zone or not. The last time Dirk Koetter was in Atlanta in 2014, Jones began his 1,400 yards-per-season streak, breaking out with 104 catches for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns. The Falcons were also third in the league in pass attempts that year. With Koetter returning as the offensive coordinator and the Falcons beefing up their offensive line, this offense is primed to be one of the most explosive in the league. Jones has been a top-eight fantasy wide receiver in every season since 2014, and there’s no reason to believe that will change.
Michael Thomas (WR – NO)
Current ADP: 11
Michael Thomas has done nothing but produce since entering the league in 2016. He finished as the WR7 overall as a rookie and then as the WR6 in both 2017 and 18. Since 2016, no one has caught more passes than Thomas and no wide receiver has had a higher catch percentage. It doesn’t get much safer than betting on the Drew Brees to Michael Thomas connection. Despite Brees throwing (eight yards) under 4,000 yards for the first time since 2005, Thomas’ production was unaffected. In 2017 Brees threw 23 touchdowns, well below his average, and many thought he was on his way out. Then he rebounded in 2018 and threw 32 touchdowns. Brees has not appeared to slow down due to age, and I think his yardage totals will come back up closer to his average in 2019, keeping Thomas as valuable as ever in an offense that hasn’t finished outside the top 12 in points or yards since 2005.
Leonard Fournette (RB – JAC)
Current ADP: 27
Drafting a “safe” player can be interpreted in a couple of different ways, and some will tell you that Leonard Fournette comes with inherent risk. To me though, the safety of a player is relative to where you need to draft him. Fournette would be a huge risk with your first-round pick, but a lot of the risk surrounding him is injury-related. He’s missed 11 games over his first two seasons, and it’s fair to question whether or not he’ll be available for you every week. His fantasy production, however, has never been in question. He’s averaged 15.3 fantasy points per game in his first two seasons, which is the eighth-highest among running backs. His yards per carry has never been pretty, but he’s scored 16 total touchdowns in his 21 career games. Despite the quarterback upgrade to Nick Foles, the offense is still going to have a run-first mentality, and the Jaguars defense is still good enough to keep the game script in Fournette’s favor.
Another thing that can’t be overlooked is that the Jacksonville offensive line was a shell of what it was supposed to be in 2018. Starting with left tackle Cam Robinson tearing his ACL in Week 2, by the last game of the season, the Jaguars had only one starter on the offensive line who started in Week 1. If the line can remain a slightly more cohesive unit in 2019, Fournette’s ceiling becomes even higher.
Brandin Cooks (WR – LAR)
Current ADP: 39
There may not be a player who’s done more to prove that he’s safe across the board than Brandin Cooks. After his first three years in New Orleans where he topped 1,100 yards twice, we questioned if he’d be able to produce among Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and James White in New England. He had 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns that season. We then questioned if he’d be able to stand out in Sean McVay’s crowded offense that runs through Todd Gurley, and he had 1,204 yards and five touchdowns. Cooks has produced results no matter what city he’s played in and who he was competing with for targets. In the last four years, he hasn’t finished worse than WR14.
Chris Carson (RB – SEA)
Current ADP: 42
Many out there are worried that Chris Carson may form a 1A-1B relationship with Rashaad Penny, but I don’t believe that’s the case. Carson outplayed Penny in camp last summer, and he began the season as the Seahawks’ starting running back just like Pete Carroll said he would. Since then he’s done nothing to relinquish his hold on that starting job, and the Seahawks have also asked him to become a bigger contributor as a receiver in 2019. He was the RB14 last season while playing on only 49 percent of the Seahawks’ offensive snaps, and that number is only going to go up with the departure of Mike Davis. Seattle ran the ball more often than any other team in the league last season and was the only team to call running plays more frequently than passing plays. There’s plenty of room for both Carson and Penny to succeed in 2019, but Carson is the starter, and he’s about as safe a fourth-round pick as you can get.