First round of a 2019 mock fantasy draft goes RB-heavy
With our 2018 mock draft in the books, it’s time to look even further ahead to 2019. Below is not so much from a dynasty perspective but rather a snapshot in the future. Yes, dynasty theory would come in handy but it’s also about which players will have the best opportunity to be viable fantasy assets in 2019 and 2019 only.
As before, we’re using PFF Senior Analyst Steve Palazzolo’s 2018 mock NFL draft to determine the landing spots of 2018’s rookie class. But beyond that, there’s many more unknowns. After all, we’re adding another NFL draft, another round of free agency and another season to rack up injuries. As always, we’ll be mocking a 12-team, standard scoring draft for three rounds and using a flex position. So, who might you be drafting in 2019?
(Age at the start of the 2019 season is given in parentheses)
- Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (24) — It’s getting to be a broken record to tab Elliott as the first pick in a mock draft, but how can you not with a player who won’t even be 25 by this time and will be playing for an ascending quarterback and still-good offensive line? Running back is a premium position and Elliott, who finished as PFF’s second-graded running back in his rookie season, is the safest pick you can make whether it’s 2017 or 2019.
- Derrius Guice, RB, Indianapolis Colts (22) — For those who have been playing fantasy football for a while, the names of Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, and Joseph Addai will ring bells as products of a high-octane Colts offense. But not since Addai 10 years ago have the Colts had a back that has been an elite fantasy option — until Guice. With Andrew Luck at the helm and Guice’s ability to avoid tacklers, he forced 48 missed tackles on only 183 attempts at LSU in 2016, Guice will be a top fantasy running back, sure to be racking up yards and touchdowns.
- Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (26) — By 2019, Philip Rivers will be in his age-37 season and even more of the offense should revolve around Gordon. Gordon famously broke out his sophomore season, scoring 12 total touchdowns after scoring zero his rookie season. He’s also a dual-threat like Guice and totaled over 400 receiving yards in 2017. Furthermore, Gordon’s new coach, Anthony Lynn, cut his teeth as a running backs coach for 14 seasons before getting the top job in Los Angeles in 2017.
- Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (25) — I may be irrationally high on Henry long-term but I can’t help myself. He’ll be in his fourth season and the centerpiece of a run-first offense that should be one of the best by 2019. Furthermore, Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis will be taking pressure off the running game. It’s only fitting that, coming out of college, Henry was compared to Titan running back Eddie George, also a top fantasy selection during his prime.
- Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (23) — By this time, the Bengals offense should have successfully shifted to centering on Mixon. The second-round pick in the 2017 draft finished first among eligible running backs in breakaway percentage at Oklahoma while finishing second in yards per route. He’s one of the few dual-threat running backs around and will be just 23 by the 2019 season. Jeremy Hill will likely be long gone and A.J. Green will be 31, creating a perfect situation for Mixon to dominate.
- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants (26) — With Brandon Marshall’s deal set to expire before 2019, expect Beckham to once again be a target hog in the Giants offense and be the top fantasy receiver available. He does drop a few spots from the 2018 mock draft but he’s still an elite talent and won’t even be 27 by 2019 draft time.
- David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals (27) — By 2019, Carson Palmer should be resting comfortably in his retirement home while Johnson carries the Cardinals offense even more than he has so far. Johnson led all running backs with 964 snaps in 2016 but also led all backs in PFF ratings. But Johnson will be 27 by 2019, so this could be the last productive year for him before the inevitable running back decline begins.
- Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (26) — Much like Beckham, Evans’ partner-in-crime, DeSean Jackson, will most likely be gone by 2019 as he’ll be 32 and in the last year of a big contract awarded in 2017. Evans will still have O.J. Howard to draw attention in short-to-medium situations, freeing up Evans to take some deep shots like he did in 2017 when he led all receivers with 39 targets that were 20 yards-or-more downfield. And he won’t even be 27!
- Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings (23) — Cook’s short-term success is cloudy thanks to a landing spot that already has two veteran running backs. But by the time 2019 rolls around, he should have the job to himself. Minnesota traded up to take Cook at 41st overall as the clear long-term solution to their running game. And why not? He was second in PFF’s elusive rating among college backs in the 2017 class and wasn’t tackled over a third of the time he was first hit, good for ninth best in the class. Cook’s playmaking ability should make him a first-round mainstay in fantasy drafts.
- Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (27) — Even at 10, it seems like a slide for Bell but he’s just not as likely to stay on the field as his counterparts selected ahead of him. He still finished as the fourth-highest-scoring fantasy running back in 2016 despite missing a quarter of the season. Taking Bell is a risk, especially as he gets older, but it’s too good to pass up.
- Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears (24) — Despite playing on a generally bad team, Howard proved to be a fantasy bright spot, rushing for over 1,300 yards his rookie season. Of course, it helped to have the NFL’s fourth-best elusive rating. If Howard can keep that up, the Bears should continue to put better pieces around him starting with Mitchell Trubisky in 2017 and, hopefully, a receiver or two beyond that. If so, it would take some pressure off Howard, allowing him to continue to run wild.
- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (23) — Running backs with good/great receiving skill sets will be a bigger trend as more versatile backs enter the draft with McCaffrey leading the way. Not only did he post a top-four SPARQ score at the NFL combine in 2017 but McCaffrey is just as comfortable playing out of the slot. And he landed in an ideal place as there is need for a regime change in the backfield in Carolina. Cam Newton will continue to accumulate bumps and bruises and will be 30 years old by then. It’s better for Newton, and the Panthers, to run more of the offense through McCaffrey.