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Fantasy Football Mock Draft: How to Handle the No. 3 Pick

by Matt Barbato | @realmattbarbato | Featured Writer
Jul 18, 2020

The third overall pick might be my preference for the top three picks in a fantasy football draft. Picking third allows you to land a stud running back with fewer picks in between rounds, which leaves you less vulnerable to positional runs.

Using the Draft Wizard, I tested that theory by conducting a mock draft picking third overall in a 12-team, standard league that starts one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, and a flex — plus a defense and kicker.

Here’s why picking third overall might be the best place to be on draft day:

Complete early mock drafts using our free draft simulator >>

Round 1

The Pick: Ezekiel Elliott (RB – DAL)
As expected, Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley went first and second. Oddly enough, 53% of our experts recommended taking Michael Thomas, and only 28% of them sided with Elliott. But passing up on a bell-cow back as good as Elliott felt irresponsible.

In standard leagues, Elliott is a step above Thomas, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara. In fact, I would’ve drafted him over Barkley. I explained why in my last mock draft.

Round 2 

The Pick: Travis Kelce (TE – KC)
Four receivers in a row went off the board before my second pick: Chris Godwin, DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Golladay, and Odell Beckham Jr. To make matters worse, each of the top-12 tailbacks was gone as well. This left me with Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Austin Ekeler as my top options. The decision came down to Evans and Kelce.

I’m skeptical that Tampa Bay’s offense will successfully support two top-eight receivers like it did last year. Yes, Tom Brady is an upgrade at quarterback over Jameis Winston. However, Brady doesn’t throw downfield as effectively anymore. His 6.6 yards per attempt in 2019 were the second-lowest of his career, behind only his 2002 season.

Meanwhile, making plays downfield is an important part of Evans’ game. In 2019, Evans averaged 13.4 yards before catch per reception, which ranked fourth among all receivers. In other words, passes thrown to Evans traveled an average of 13.4 yards in the air before he caught them. His running mate, Godwin, averaged only 8.8 yards before catch per reception. Godwin might be the better fit for Brady.

I’m not a big believer in taking tight ends early in drafts. But in this case, Kelce was clearly the best option available. He’ll still be the primary red-zone target for the best offense in football and should put up another excellent season.

Round 3

The Pick: Allen Robinson (WR – CHI)
My plan in Round 3 was to try and stack Kelce with Patrick Mahomes. Unfortunately, the reigning Super Bowl MVP was taken two picks ahead of me.

I opted for Robinson over Cooper because owning Cooper is like riding a roller coaster after eating at a buffet. It’s an exhilarating but nauseating ride. Robinson might not have as high of a ceiling, but he’s a safe bet to finish among the top-12 receivers. He’s a perfectly fine WR1 who will benefit from having a competent quarterback at the helm in Nick Foles. I’ll pair him with higher upside receivers later on.

For what it’s worth, our experts were pretty split on this choice. Cooper got 40% of the votes, while 30% of our experts would’ve taken Robinson.

Round 4

The Pick: Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)
I’m a big fan of Cooper Kupp, and I think too much is being made about his second half of last season. Yes, Kupp caught only 36 passes in his final eight games. However, he finished the season by scoring a touchdown in five straight contests.

Brandin Cooks’ departure leaves more targets for Kupp to absorb, and his rapport with Jared Goff, especially in the red zone, shouldn’t be forgotten. The Rams may play more 12 personnel, but Sean McVay is smart enough to find ways to get the ball in Kupp’s hands. I love him as my WR2.

Round 5

The Pick: Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS)
I’ve gotten McLaurin in almost every draft I can. He’s my pick to be this year’s breakout receiver, and I’m convinced his ability at all three levels of the field will translate into a top-15 season, assuming his former college teammate, Dwayne Haskins, improves during his sophomore season.

McLaurin is a stud in the making, and he’s someone I believe is more talented than Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and D.J. Chark, who were all still on the board at this pick.

Round 6

The Pick: Russell Wilson (QB – SEA)
My splurge on wide receiver the last three rounds has left me vulnerable at running back. Kareem Hunt is the only top-30 running back available, according to our Expert Consensus Rankings. While I think that Hunt will have a role in Cleveland out of the backfield and as a pass-catcher, I’m concerned that his role behind Nick Chubb won’t merit RB2 consideration.

The other running backs available are Derrius Guice, Jordan Howard, and Ronald Jones, each of whom come with their own unique problems.

This led me to Wilson, who was somehow still available. With Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray off the board, the next best quarterback left was Josh Allen, whom I don’t think highly of. Our Pick Predictor said there was an 82% chance that Wilson would be taken within the four picks between my sixth and seventh-round selections. Meanwhile, none of the running backs mentioned above had greater than a 47% chance of being picked.

In the end, the opportunity to take an elite player in Round 6 was too good to pass up.

Round 7

The Pick: Kareem Hunt (RB – CLE)
The only running back taken between my sixth and seventh-round picks was Guice. Ultimately, I chose Hunt over Howard for upside purposes and his ability to contribute in the passing game.

I actually like Howard in standard leagues, and I think that he’ll get plenty of scoring opportunities on a Dolphins offense that might actually be decent. However, Hunt is the more dynamic player, and he instantly becomes a top-10 option if Nick Chubb goes down with an injury.

Round 8

The Pick: Brandin Cooks (WR – HOU)
In Round 8, I was torn between drafting for need and drafting for luxury. My internal struggle was over Brandin Cooks and Marlon Mack. I think that Cooks is immensely undervalued this year and has high-end WR2 upside with Deshaun Watson. But I also already have three receivers and a need to fortify my running back depth.

Mack is a pretty good running back who would ordinarily be a strong RB2, but the uncertainty surrounding Jonathan Taylor’s arrival terrifies me. My guess is that because of the difficult offseason, the incumbent Mack will see the bulk of the work early on. However, a player as good as Taylor should force his way onto the field eventually.

I turned to our Pick Predictor once again and saw that there was a 41% chance that Mack would be available at my next pick. I’m going to take the risk, cross my fingers, and take Cooks.

Round 9

The Pick: Marlon Mack (RB – IND)
This is why the Pick Predictor is one of my favorite tools offered within the Draft Wizard. Instead of passing on Cooks to nab Mack one round earlier, I got the best of both worlds and better value for Mack as my RB3. Now, I just need to hope that he gets the majority of the touches through at least the first half of the season.

My goal is to get enough production from Mack to keep me afloat while I pursue other options at tailback as the season goes on.

Round 10

The Pick: Tony Pollard (RB – DAL)
We’ve reached the point of the draft where every running back on the board is either a handcuff or a lottery ticket. In this case, I need to take as many fliers as possible. It starts with Pollard, who was the best running back on the board, according to ECR.

Pollard most likely won’t make a significant impact, but I’ll sleep better at night knowing that I have him in case Elliott goes down. There was a 47% chance he’d be gone with my next pick, and that was a risk I refused to take.

Round 11

The Pick: Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG)
I should be taking running backs, I know. But I’m a sucker for upside receivers. And yes, I think Shepard has the most upside among the other receivers remaining.

Shepard has the opportunity to be the No. 1 receiver on a Giants offense that has some upside if Daniel Jones can take the next step in Year 2. I fully acknowledge there’s just as much of a chance of Shepard failing to reach his potential yet again. But I think he’s a better player than Darius Slayton, who went off the board at the end of Round 8.

If the Giants finally use Shepard properly as the full-time slot receiver, then this could be one of the best value picks of the draft. And I promise — this is the last receiver I’m taking.

Round 12

The Pick: Darrynton Evans (RB – TEN)
Did I mention how ugly running back has gotten? Nyheim Hines, Justin Jackson, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Williams are the top four backs available at this point. While I like Hines to potentially fill the Ekeler role in Indianapolis, I don’t think he provides enough value in standard formats.

Jackson could potentially take some of the carries Melvin Gordon left behind in Los Angeles, but he also has rookie Joshua Kelley to compete with. And Peterson is… just too old.

So let’s scroll further down the list of running backs to find arguably the biggest lottery ticket left on the board: Darrynton Evans. The East Carolina product joins Tennessee as the likely No. 2 running back behind Derrick Henry. Henry, who recently received a four-year contract extension, has held up so far under a heavy workload. But he enters the 2020 season with a ton of tread already on his tires.

Even if Henry doesn’t get hurt, Evans has a decent floor as Tennessee’s change of pace and third-down back. The difference between Evans and Hines is one injury can vault Evans into serious fantasy relevancy.

Round 13

The Pick: Carlos Hyde (RB – SEA)
Like eating a Lean Cuisine, there’s nothing exciting about picking Carlos Hyde. So why bother? Because there’s an opportunity for Hyde to see starting duties in Seattle. Chris Carson is coming off of a serious hip injury and frequently has a case of “fumble-itis,” and Rashaad Penny will likely start the season on the PUP list after tearing his ACL last season.

Hyde had offseason shoulder surgery, but he’s shown he can produce when given the opportunity. Despite having a limited skillset, he managed to rush for 1,000 yards for the first time in his career last season with Houston. If Carson gets hurt or can’t hold onto the ball, Hyde could suddenly ascend up the depth chart on a Seattle offense that should put up plenty of points. A top-40 season isn’t out of the question.

Round 14

The Pick: Eno Benjamin (RB – ARI)
Benjamin is a deep sleeper who I’m willing to take a stab on with my last bench spot. I’m not nearly as high on Kenyan Drake as some are, and I think that Benjamin could overcome Chase Edmonds on the depth chart for the backup duties. Benjamin has great straight line and lateral speed and could see plenty of opportunities on passing downs.

While Drake had a “breakout” after being traded to Arizona, he’s been a wildly inconsistent player throughout his entire career. Edmonds will likely get the first crack if Drake doesn’t perform, so it may take a while for Benjamin to see substantial playing time. However, I’m willing to wait and see.

Rounds 15 and 16

The Picks: Chicago Bears D/ST and Jake Elliott (K – PHI)
I think Chicago’s defense has a ton of upside. Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack will be the core of what should be an insanely disruptive pass rush. The Bears still have plenty of talent in the secondary and should generate plenty of turnovers.

As for kicker, I took Elliott because he’s a reliable option on an offense that should put up plenty of points.

Final Roster and Draft Grade

The Draft Wizard was kind enough to give me an “A” grade, with a score of 93 out of 100. According to its projections, I had the best team in the league. Not surprisingly I was ranked first at tight end and fourth at quarterback. Despite starting my team with Elliott, the Draft Wizard rated me seventh at running back. And while the Draft Wizard ranked me eighth at wide receiver, I think the group I assembled has a ton of upside to outperform those expectations.

How do you think I did drafting third overall? Let me know on Twitter @RealMattBarbato!

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato.

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