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Who Should be the 1st Pick in Half-PPR Drafts? (2019 Fantasy Football)

Aug 8, 2019

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Some years, there is little doubt when it comes to the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy football drafts. This year, however, there isn’t a runaway consensus pick at No. 1. There are questions around the Giants’ offense. Can Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey continue to be as efficient/productive in 2019? Will Ezekiel Elliott even be on the field Week 1?

Given the questions at the top of the draft, we’ve asked our writers who they are taking with the first-overall pick in half-PPR fantasy football drafts.

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Who Should be the 1st Pick in Half PPR Drafts?

Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)
The Giants do have a lot of risks on offense. Will Eli Manning be able to hold off backup quarterback Daniel Jones this year, or will Jones make lots of starts in 2019? Who is going to play wide receiver early in the year due to suspension and injury to key starters? Will the defense be able to rebound from a season where they were 23rd in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed? This organization is a mess, but the one position that is not in doubt and is not a mess is running back. Barkley had a historic rookie season, tallying the third-most yards from scrimmage by a rookie. He finished the 2018 season with 261 rushing attempts, 1,307 yards rushing, 91 receptions, 721 yards, and 15 total touchdowns. He is only 22 years old, and he is just scratching the surface. This Giants team reminds me a lot of the 2003 San Diego Chargers. That team had one of the worst defenses in the NFL, a mess at the quarterback position, and a lack of quality options at wide receiver. The only bright spot on that Chargers team was a 24-year-old running back that would go on to be a Hall of Famer, LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson was fed the ball that year, finishing with 313 carries, 1,645 yards, 100 receptions, 725 yards receiving, and 17 total touchdowns. Those 2,370 yards from scrimmage were the fourth-most in NFL history, but they did nothing for a Chargers team that was devoid of other talent and finished 4-12. I think that is what the Giants are going to be, a horrific NFL team with one running back that will dominate the touches in both the running and passing game. Barkley’s physical dominance and high volume in both the running game and the passing game make him the ideal first pick in fantasy football drafts in 2019.
– Derek Lofland (@DerekLofland)

When a once-in-a-lifetime talent comes around like this, you can’t miss out. The numbers last year speak for themselves, and this is simply one of the most talented players in the sport. I really don’t need to go over the statistics because you’ll see all of them in everyone else’s write-ups but the simple fact is, Barkley could lead all running backs in targets and carries. That’s a scary thought from a guy this talented. The sky truly is the limit for this kid.
– Joel Bartilotta (@Bartilottajoel)

If Ezekiel Elliot did not have holdout concerns, he would be my unanimous number one pick in this format. I will give Saquon Barkley the edge over Christian McCaffrey, but not by much. He became the third rookie to eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage while breaking Reggie Bush‘s rookie record for catches by a running back. His seven runs of 40-plus yards were the most since Adrian Peterson had eight in 2012. Barkley could see more stacked boxes with the team’s quarterback play ranking near the bottom of the league. An improved offensive line, guaranteed touches (352 last season), and no holdout concerns (Elliott), makes Barkley the safest pick in the draft. Add in the fact the Giants defense ranges anywhere from mediocre to awful, meaning the Giants should trail in most games, which will equate to more receptions out of the backfield for Barkley. His supporting cast isn’t the greatest, but in terms of his production floor and ceiling, Barkley is the top option in my book until Zeke ends his holdout.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)

Christian McCaffrey (RB – CAR)
To be clear, this is unquestionably Ezekiel Elliott for me if he gets a new contract. So, if your draft is late enough in the preseason and Zeke has signed an extension, go ahead and take Zeke No. 1. If not, it’s Christian McCaffrey. Much like Mark already said, there is a “big four” at RB with David Johnson as the clear No. 5. We are splitting hairs at the top. Right now, the other members of the big four all have more concerns than McCaffrey. Saquon Barkley’s touchdown upside is capped by his dreadful offense. There is a 0% chance Zeke plays a single game in 2019 without a new contract. While I do think he gets his deal, it’s far from a certainty, which knocks him below McCaffrey. Finally, we have Alvin Kamara. While Kamara does not need volume to produce, with my first-overall pick, I want the volume as long as I am not sacrificing situation or talent. CMC is going to catch more passes than Kamara, and he doesn’t have a Latavius Murray taking work from him. Kamara can and will be an elite RB1 even with Murray, just like he was with Mark Ingram, but he will never see the volume that CMC sees. I don’t have any tangible evidence to back up this next claim, but I firmly believe that CMC is never going to be injured. He just strikes me as the type of player that plays 16 games every year. He’s probably not going to finish as the overall RB1, but I am most confident in him to not finish lower than RB5. He is the safest non-WR in fantasy football who also has a very high ceiling.
– Jason Katz (@jasonkatz13)

There is a clear consensus “big four” at running back this year (and I have a “big five” that includes David Johnson). Johnson cannot be the 1.01 because his situation involves the most speculation, easily. It’s also easy to eliminate Alvin Kamara at the top of Tier One since he’s in a timeshare, and the other three are clear cut bell-cows. Saquon Barkley is the next one I strike off, as he is on the Giants. While he did finish No. 3 in Half-PPR points per game last year, he did so on the back of 15 touchdowns, which seems unlikely to repeat, and he faced an average of 7.0 defenders in the box (No. 16 in the NFL). I was shocked that this number was not higher, and assuming coaches act rationally in 2019, that number should increase. Given that there are risks associated with any piece of the Giants offense, and no risks with Elliott (once he reports) or McCaffrey, the choice is clear that these two must be 1.01 and 1.02 in all formats. It’s a razor-thin margin between the two since both are true bell-cows on above-average offenses. The differences that I am using to separate the two are splitting hairs, and neither is a wrong choice (nor is Barkley or Kamara, really — all are fine players and fantasy assets). That said, at 1.01 we must minimize risk in every way possible, and that means striking Kamara, Barkley, and now Elliott. The edge goes to McCaffrey because Dallas did more to address the running back position in the offseason, but much more importantly, because every season from 2015 until 2018, Carolina’s lead running back has recorded more carries inside the five-yard line than Dallas’s lead running back (whether it was Jonathan Stewart or Christian McCaffrey). Despite the narrative that Cam Newton is a goal-line vulture, he has only led the team in carries inside the five-yard line once in those four seasons, and the Panthers’ lead running back has been top 10 in the NFL in all four seasons in goal-line carries.
– Mark Leipold (@LeipoldNFL)

David Johnson (RB – ARI)
Before you instinctively dismiss the idea, here me out. Only one of the top five consensus running backs has ever finished number one at the position, and his name is David Johnson. DJ’s ceiling is undeniable. In 2016 he finished 82 points ahead of the next closest back and totaled more points than any running back since Arian Foster in 2010. Kliff Kingsbury and his Air Raid spread will lead to fewer defenders in the box, which in turn will allow DJ to improve his efficiency. Kingsbury’s scheme relies on quick passes, and Johnson just so happens to be an elite receiving threat. There’s a non-slim chance that DJ surpasses the 120 targets he saw in 2016. He could easily total 2,000 yards and has already showcased signficant touchdown upside. With Amari Cooper on the team, Ezekiel Elliott posted a 16-game pace of 2,414 yards and 10 touchdowns. He would undoubtedly be my first choice if not for the contract situation. Saquon Barkley had just two games with less than 80 scrimmage yards last season, and both of them took place when OBJ was not in the lineup. We’ve seen some of the most talented backs in the league struggle on bad offenses — most notably Todd Gurley in 2016 and David Johnson last year. He should still be a top-three pick, but there is some buyer beware with Barkley. Christian McCaffrey is definitely worth considering at number one, though he was not utilized to the same extent when Cam Newton was healthy in 2018. There is the possibility that a healthy Newton will cap McCaffrey’s upside. Unless Elliott gets himself a new contract, I want no part of the number one pick. If I do end up in the top slot, I’ll go with who I believe has the best blend of floor and upside — and that’s David Johnson.
– Elisha Twerski (@ElishaTwerski)

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