NFL

Fantasy Football First Round Mock: PPR

With the NFL season just a month away, it’s time to start preparing for fantasy football. This year the running back crop is thin, so taking running backs in the first round is the way to go in most spots. However, there are some wide receivers that are just too valuable to pass up. This is how the first round should go in a PPR draft.

1. Le’Veon Bell

This should come as a surprise to just about nobody. Bell has been among the best backs in the league since he entered it in 2013. His unorthodox running style has worked well for him to say the least, as he has been selected to three Pro-Bowls in the past four seasons. Last year, he had 1,952 total yards on 406 touches and 11 touchdowns, 85 of his touches coming as receptions. He ranked second in PPR points for a running back, and third overall behind only Todd Gurley and Russell Wilson. Bell is the ultimate dual-threat back, and is the clear number one pick in fantasy football this year. For those worried about his contract frustrations with the Steelers, don’t be. If he wants to get the pay he’s begging for, Bell needs to play even better than he has been, which is going to be difficult. If anything, it should help his game.

Points Last Season: 341.6

Point Prediction: 353

2. Todd Gurley

The best player in fantasy last year, Todd Gurley, should go right at the top of the draft this season after his unbelievable campaign last year. Gurley finished first in PPR scoring last year, meaning he had the most points of any player in the league. His usage was at an all-time high, recording 343 touches, 2,093 total yards, and 19 touchdowns. He had 64 receptions, which will have a tremendous impact in PPR leagues. Gurley was the go-to in the red-zone last season and will be again this year. The Rams added a number of offensive and defensive weapons this offseason, including speedster wideout Brandin Cooks from the New England Patriots. However, Cooks is not a big guy, so he won’t attract many red-zone targets, so this will not take away from Gurley’s touchdown rate. The Rams’ high-powered offense is set to explode this season with Gurley at the center of it. Expect big things from Gurley in his fourth year in the league.

Points Last Season: 383.3

Point Prediction: 342

3. Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown is hands down the best receiver in football. Brown has collected over 100 receptions in each of his past five seasons, which bodes extremely well for him in PPR format. He led the league in reception yards last season while catching 9 touchdowns and leading all receivers PPR scoring. Brown will be thirty this season, however he has shown no signs of decline. AB has already been impressive at training camp, making highlight reel catches and flying past defensive backs. People may wonder why I have Antonio Brown ranked over David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott, but this should not surprise to anyone who has witnessed Brown’s greatness. His receptions will be key in PPR leagues, as he gets a ridiculous amount of targets every season. He is a safer pick than Johnson after his season-ending injury last season, and Elliot has been great but he will not get the same volume of receptions that Brown will. This will provide more insurance, so even if Brown does not get a touchdown, he will still compile a good fantasy performance based on his receptions.

Points Last Season: 310.3

Point Projection: 305

4. Ezekiel Elliott

The majority of the Cowboys’ offensive production this season will come from Ezekiel Elliott. The halfback will most likely get above 300 carries and around 30 receptions. Elliot may lack behind in the receptions department, but his production in the running game overshadows this handsomely. Elliott has led the league in yards per game in each of his two NFL seasons, which is an important statistic to factor into his play because of his suspension last year. Zeke is one of the most talented running backs in the league I believe he will lead the league in rushing yards this year. However, Bell and Gurley will have more receptions, therefore are more valuable in PPR format. With the stellar O-line, Zeke is hungry and ready to be fed amply this season.

Points Last Season: 203.2

Projected Points: 330

5. David Johnson

The return of David Johnson to the NFL should terrify NFL defenses. In his one full starting seasons in 2016, he gathered 2118 total yards and 20 total touchdowns with 80 receptions. Those are outstanding numbers, as he destroyed the competition in PPR scoring that year, compiling 407.8 fantasy points. That was 82.4 points more than the second back in that season. Johnson has an extremely high ceiling this year, but his injury should not be too worrisome for anyone who plans to draft Johnson in fantasy. Johnson dislocated his wrist,  so it should not interfere with his running game, but it was an immensely serious injury, and if he hurts it again he could be looking at another extended period of time missed. The only reason I rank him lower than Brown and Elliott is because he has been out of the league for a year and it could take him a bit to get back in his game especially with little help from his offense. So, Elliot is a safer bet in PPR for a back, but Johnson has a higher ceiling. Johnson has great potential this upcoming season and fantasy owners should be grabbing him in the first round.

Points Last Season: 13.1

Projected Points: 339

6. Alvin Kamara

The former NFL Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara is set for another big year in 2018. Kamara was a dark horse last year, taken in the late rounds of the draft out of Texas. He began the season as the third back in New Orleans, but moved up the depth chart quickly until he earned himself a starting role alongside Mark Ingram. He gathered 13 total touchdowns and 1,554 total yards with 81 receptions in his rookie campaign. He had a league-leading 6.1 yards per attempt to show his outstanding efficiency. Kamara should go off in the first four games of the season due to Ingram’s suspension. But even with Ingram, Kamara is an irreplaceable asset to the offense. Those who worry about his usage when Ingram comes back have a legitimate concern, but his receptions should be reassuring to anyone looking to draft Kamara as an RB1. Sean Payton will figure out a way to incorporate Kamara into most sets because of his versatility and elusiveness. Don’t be scared off by Ingram, Kamara is a strong RB1 and should be taken mid-to-late first round.

Points Last Season: 320.4

Projected Points: 309

7. DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins is one of the most electrifying players in today’s game. He makes near-impossible catches weekly. Let’s just say, any quarterback that throws to him doesn’t have to make the best throw, Hopkins will get that ball. Last season he led the league in reception touchdowns with 13 and racked up 1,378 yards. With Watson at quarterback for seven games, he threw for 19 touchdowns, seven of which went to Hopkins. Hopkins was on pace for 16 touchdowns, 1,369 yards and 100 catches when Watson was throwing to him. So, with a healthy Watson, Hopkins could explode this year. It is clear that the two have a connection and Hopkins’ targets will definitely go up this year based on that. He will have more receptions and will continue to be the go-to for the Texans in the red-zone. It should be fun to watch these to go to work this year, especially for fantasy owners. Draft Hopkins early, he has the highest ceiling of anyone on this list.

Points Last Season: 309.8

Projected Points: 317

8. Kareem Hunt

The league leader in rushing last year, for the second season in a row, was a rookie, and it was Kareem Hunt. Hunt was a mid-round pick out of Toledo by the Kansas City Chiefs. Hunt had very good numbers last season, but was incredibly streaky and inconsistent. Nevertheless, Hunt put up 1,782 total yards and 11 total touchdowns with 53 receptions. As a former Kareem Hunt owner, I advise anyone who plans to draft Hunt to be ready for some up and downs but not give up on him. He will have an exciting young quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, which will give him more carries at the beginning of the season to take some pressure off Mahomes. Also, Andy Reid loves to use running backs in the passing game, and his receptions will play a big part in his PPR stock. Hunt has great potential this year if he can figure out how to stay hot the whole season.

Points Last Season: 295.2

Projected Points: 287

9. Saquon Barkley

The player every NFL fan is waiting for is Saquon Barkley. The Penn State phenom put up great numbers and highlight reel plays every week in college, and Giants fans are beyond psyched to have him. His combination of size and athleticism has not been seen since Bo Jackson, and his combine numbers were insane. He ran a 4.40 40-yard dash, 29 bench press reps, and a 41-inch vertical jump. It is safe to say that Barkley has all the tools he needs to succeed in the NFL. He is exciting to watch and brings an energy to the team that the Giants desperately need after last season. The Giants’ offensive line is not great, and he is unproven, which is why i rank him lower than Hunt.

Projected Points: 325

10. Odell Beckham Jr.

After being out for most of the 2017 season, the Giants wideout looks to make an electrifying comeback to the league. Beckham has been the most exciting receiver to watch since entering the league in 2014. A couple things worry me about Beckham this season however. His leg injury could very well have an impact on his route running ability which is a very big part of his game. Also Eli Manning is not getting any better, and the Giants’ offensive line is not great. But, it’s still Odell and he is an insane athlete with some of the best hands in the game. I have no doubt that he will make big plays and get a lot of fantasy points, it just might take him a second to get warmed up, so don’t give up on him if he doesn’t produce in the first couple games.

Points Last Season: 74.0

Projected Points: 298

Sources:

https://www.fantasypros.com/nfl/reports/leaders/ppr.php?year=2017

https://www.nfl.com/prospects/saquon-barkley?id=32462018-0002-5599-01e7-82f405a9a7e5

http://www.espn.com/blog/houston-texans/post/_/id/22087/texans-hopkins-says-he-and-watson-can-be-best-duo-in-nfl

https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/11/09/david-johnson-injury-return-fantasy-football-arizona-cardinals

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