The next installment of @PhilPattonNFL ‘s early 2019 fantasy football draft board. The players are ranked based on standard scoring formats. You can see his top 20 here, 21-40 here, 41-60 here and 61-80 here.
Dominating a fantasy draft requires an apt assessment of its positional value, and history tells us there’s great late-round value to be had at the QB position. Andrew Luck (QB6), Ben Roethlisberger (QB2), and Matt Ryan (QB3) all went in the 9th-and-10th rounds last season (in 10-team leagues). Depth is a constant at the position because only a third of starting QBs make it into lineups each week. You could do a lot worse than loading up on position players early and grabbing Baker Mayfield in the 10th round.
Ditch the middling flex options and target potential league-winners late in the draft. Personally, I like second-year RBs Royce Freeman and Rashaad Penny to have breakout seasons and finish in the RB2-range. Look to invest in talented players capable of expanding their roles next season, as 9th-and-10th rounders Chris Carson, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tarik Cohen, and Marlon Mack did last year.
81. Royce Freeman, RB31
Royce Freeman was thoroughly upstaged by undrafted free agent Phillip Lindsay last season but hope springs eternal with a new Broncos coaching staff. Denver is adding the notable OL coach Mike Munchak, whose players have produced eight consecutive RB1-seasons. Of course, Munchak had the benefit of coaching generational talents like Chris Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, but he also led DeAngelo Williams and James Conner to RB1-finishes. Phillip Lindsay earned the right to be the starter going into next season, but his slight frame may prevent him from handling a heavy workload. The stage is set for Freeman to overtake Lindsay as the starter in a run-heavy offense, making him a great breakout candidate next year.
82. Rashaad Penny, RB32
Seattle had a rather unusual situation play out in its backfield last season; they spent a first round pick on Rashaad Penny, only for the incumbent Chris Carson to win the starting job. Penny is sure to receive more opportunities next season despite his status as the backup; the Seahawks have simply invested too much to let him waste away on their bench. He could improve in the offseason and win the starting job (best-case scenario), or he could end up filling in for Carson in the event of an injury or a trade. Penny has the talent to produce in the Seahawks’ run-first offense, he just needs the opportunity.
83. Robby Anderson, WR34
The 2018 Jets offense was a mess before Sam Darnold pieced together a nice late-season showing. His top target Robby Anderson was even the WR1 during the fantasy playoffs with 312 yards and 3 TDs. Anderson is a legit deep-threat who averaged the third-most targeted air yards in the NFL last year. He has intriguing potential in what should be an improved Jets passing game next season.
84. Gus Edwards, RB33
The Ravens saved their season by replacing Joe Flacco with Lamar Jackson and inserting Gus Edwards as the starting RB in week 11. Both moves paid immediate dividends, as the Baltimore run game turned into a dominant force overnight. Alex Collins danced his way to 3.6 yards/carry prior to week 11, while Edwards came in and averaged 5.4 yards/carry. The Ravens coaching staff grew frustrated with Collins’ ball-security issues and Edwards never fumbled in 139 touches. Kenneth Dixon has also looked impressive in the Baltimore backfield, but he’s fumbled three times in his last 50 carries. Edwards’ ball-security give him a slight edge over Dixon heading into next season.
85. Dante Pettis, WR35
The Niners offense was stuck in neutral for most of 2018 without its starting QB Jimmy Garappolo, but a few players still managed to establish roles for themselves going forward. George Kittle was the big breakout star in San Francisco, but Dante Pettis also had a very nice second half of the season—he was the WR3 from weeks 12-15. Pettis could have a valuable role in a much-improved Niners offense next season, giving him healthy upside.
86. Julian Edelman, WR36
Julian Edelman filled in admirably for the Patriots’ depleted receiving core last year, producing as the WR12 following his four-game suspension. His volume, however, is sure to decrease next season with new skill position players headed to New England. The Patriots also look poised to lean more on Sony Michel and the run game going forward, ensuring that Tom Brady will age gracefully. Edelman has limited potential as a 33-year-old WR next season, but he will remain a useful flex option in the right matchups.
87. LeSean McCoy, RB34
Google’s most-frequently asked questions about LeSean McCoy are whether he’s injured, still playing on the Bills, or even retired. It’s fair to wonder those things about a player who just had the worst statistical season of his 10-year career. McCoy’s age began to show in 2018 behind a bad offensive line in a low-scoring offense, which should only continue next season. At this point, a change of scenery is the only possible saving grace for Shady McCoy’s fantasy value.
88. Christian Kirk, WR37
Josh Rosen regressed as the 2018 season went on behind an offensive line that couldn’t block a ghost. The Cardinals have taken the first step in fixing that problem by hiring Kliff Kingsbury to oversee the development of their young QB. The next step will be upgrading the offensive line, something they’ve been trying to do for years now. If the Cardinals successfully resurrect their dormant offense, Christian Kirk stands to be the biggest beneficiary. The second-year WR is already the top option in Arizona and could become a strong flex play with competent coaching and pass-protection next season.
89. Courtland Sutton, WR38
Courtland Sutton couldn’t capitalize on a tremendous opportunity last year—he managed just 380 yards and 2 TDs in the eight games following the Demaryius Thomas trade. He will have another crack at a breakout next year as the best WR on the Broncos roster with Emmanuel Sanders rehabbing. Sutton has legit WR2-potential if he establishes chemistry with Joe Flacco next season.
90. Baker Mayfield, QB9
Baker Mayfield has already solidified himself as a star in the NFL, but he has the potential to be a top-5 QB for the next decade. Mayfield broke the rookie record for TD passes last season with 27 in only 13.5 games. It’s rare for a rookie to show the accuracy and quick reads that Baker displayed last year. He should only continue to ascend with a full offseason as the starter in Freddie Kitchens’ offense.
91. Kenneth Dixon, RB35
Kenneth Dixon is expected to make a strong push to be the Ravens’ starting RB in 2019. He led the team with 5.6 yards/carry last season and looked like the best back in Baltimore late in the season. Dixon is by no means a prolific pass-catching back, but he proved more adept than Gus Edwards out in space. The Ravens backfield will need time to sort itself out, but the starter in a Lamar Jackson offense figures to be a valuable fantasy asset.
92. Matt Breida, RB36
The 2018 Matt Breida Experience was a wild ride of efficient production hampered by injuries. It’s clear he cannot handle a heavy workload, but there’s little evidence to suggest the starter can either; Jerick McKinnon has never started a full season and tore his ACL last August. The two will likely end up splitting carries, which makes Breida one of the most valuable backups to own in fantasy.
93. Golden Tate, WR39
Golden Tate simply didn’t fit his new team after being traded mid-season. Despite playing 18 total games, he had his least productive season since 2011. It’s unfair to hold Tate’s performance against him entirely, as players often struggle adjusting after mid-season trades and he had to work with two QBs. There was also a lot of competition for targets in the slot, with Zach Ertz, Nelson Agholor, and Dallas Goedert all operating in the middle of the field. Tate could regain his form as a top-25 WR next season if he lands on a good offense with a need at slot receiver. Tampa Bay could be an intriguing destination if Jackson and Humphries both leave in free agency.
94. Drew Brees, QB10
Drew Brees had one of his most efficient seasons last year, posting career-highs in passer rating and adjusted yards/attempt, which accounts for TDs & INTs. He would have been the league MVP if not for some guy named Pat Mahomes. Brees was set up perfectly for success in a Sean Payton offense with Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and an elite interior offensive line. His numbers were dominant for most of the season (QB2 through Thanksgiving), but his production dipped dramatically down the stretch (QB24 weeks 13-16). Unfortunately, the end of the season is likely more indicative of how Brees will perform in 2019; he’s a 40-year old QB coming off a career-year with an unsustainable 6.5 TD%. Brees will be difficult to trust in fantasy next season, especially as his body wears down in December.
95. Sterling Shepard, WR40
Sterling Shepard gets lost in the shuffle a bit in New York, but he’s a talented player who’s been limited by the declining play of his QB—he’s eclipsed 8 fantasy points only seven times in the last two seasons. The best-case scenario for Shepard’s short-term value is a Nick Foles signing, while drafting Dwayne Haskins would also be an improvement over the current circumstances. Shepard will only realize his top-30 WR talent with competent QB play in New York.
96. Anthony Miller, WR41
Anthony Miller is more potential than production at this point in his career. He earned rave reviews out of training camp last offseason and scored 7 TDs in 2018, but the yardage simply wasn’t there—Miller had 50+ receiving yards only once last season. However, the Bears passing game has explosive potential in 2019. With another year under Matt Nagy, a more-polished Mitchell Trubisky, and a less-dominant defense to lean on, Miller could be the catalyst for an offensive breakout in Chicago.
97. Jay Ajayi, RB37
It’s difficult to predict the productivity of an NFL free agent coming off a torn ACL, but Jay Ajayi is talented enough to at least compete for a starting role in 2019. He could very well do so in Philadelphia next season on a one-year prove-it deal. Ajayi won’t be a workhorse back, but he still has upside as a goal-line back in a good offense. Consider Ajayi a TD-dependent RB3 if he returns to Philly next season.
98. Ben Roethlisberger, QB11
Big Ben has managed only one top-5 finish in his last 11 seasons, and it was last year in 2018. Roethlisberger has rarely sustained success over a full season and it looks like he’ll be without his favorite target Antonio Brown going forward. The Steelers will lean on the run game more than ever to make up for recent losses on offense. Roethlisberger still has the benefit of a great WR in JuJu Smith-Schuster and an elite offensive line but steer clear of this aging QB as he adjusts to life without Antonio Brown.
99. Rob Gronkowski, TE9
At this time last year, Gronkowski was widely considered the TE1. It’s crazy how far he’s fallen after a litany of injuries caught up to him in 2018. And yet, the lovable man-child still finished the season happy, which is a testament to the Patriots dynasty. New England tried to trade him to Detroit last offseason, he threatened to retire, and all this came out in the press during the season. The Patriots somehow managed to ignore it, Gronk transitioned into more of a blocking TE, and they won yet another Super Bowl. In other news, Gronk will be 30 by the time the 2019 season rolls around, and he may not have much left in the tank as a receiver if he returns. However, Gronk is still worth picking up on the off-chance he was dealing with nagging injuries all season that went unreported. That seems like something the Patriots would do.
100. Ronald Jones, RB38
It’s safe to say Ronald Jones didn’t have the season he was hoping for in 2018—he gained fewer than 100 all-purpose yards and averaged 1.9 yards/carry (yeesh!). However, there is still hope for the 2018 second-round pick. Bruce Arians and his coaching staff will be looking at the roster with fresh eyes, meaning Jones will have an opportunity to start fresh and compete for the starting job. It’s worth taking a flier on a guy who had 1,737 yards from scrimmage at USC just two years ago.