2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Rankings breakdown No. 10-1
Learn why you should — and maybe why you shouldn't — draft players 10-1 in our consensus rankings.
Welcome to our 2019 Player Profiles series. We are going through the top 100 in the consensus PPR rankings of Heath Cummings, Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard to give you the case for and the case against drafting each player. By the time you're done, you'll know everything you need to know for drafting in 2019.
You know all these names. Now find out both sides to their Fantasy story for 2019:
10. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT
The Case For: In virtually every way (other than touchdowns). Smith-Schuster was the best Steelers' receiver last season. He had more nine more catches than Antonio Brown on two fewer targets. He averaged more yards per reception. And most importantly, he's still the one in Pittsburgh. Back before Smith-Schuster, we saw Ben Roethlisberger target Brown 193 times in one season, and 181 in another. Without a star No. 2 on the field it should be no surprise if Smith-Schuster approaches those numbers and leads the league in targets. He may also lead receivers in Fantasy points.
The Case Against: While it's true Smith-Schuster should see even more targets, you have to consider how much his efficiency may suffer. It's a lot easier to get open when the other team has to double-team Brown on the other side of the field. This could be a case of a downgrade in efficiency overruling an increase in volume. There are also reasons to be concerned about the age and health of his quarterback as well as the continuity in Pittsburgh as a whole. Smith-Schuster has as much upside as any receiver in football this year, but he's the riskiest of the top-five receivers.
9. James Conner, RB, PIT
The Case For: Conner gave ammo to the "running backs don't matter" crowd and made Le'Veon Bell look expendable in 2018. In just 13 games, he topped 1,400 yards, scored 13 touchdowns and finished as a top-six running back in both formats. Now Bell is gone (as is Antonio Brown), so Fantasy players shouldn't have the same anxiety about his future. The Steelers are one of the last remaining teams to eschew the dreaded committee approach at running back. That may not be great for Conner's long-term viability, but it's outstanding for his 2019 value. Expect 20-plus touches a game and another top-10 season.
The Case Against: While Conner may have replaced Bell with relative ease, I wouldn't be quite as certain about him performing without Brown. This was one of the most successful offenses in the NFL largely because of the resources teams had to dedicate to stopping arguably the best receiver in the NFL. If JuJu Smith-Schuster struggles to fill Brown's shoes, the offense could sputter. Conner should also plan on seeing more bodies in the box now that the Steelers only have one other playmaker opposing defenses truly fear. There's also been whispers coming out of Pittsburgh than Conner could share the lead role with either Jaylen Samuels or Benny Snell.
8. David Johnson, RB, ARI
The Case For: The Cardinals are trying to move in the right direction and provide David Johnson with more help. Kliff Kingsbury will bring a modern offense to the team, the offensive line will be better (though maybe short of good), and they selected Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. And it's probably worth mentioning that in a down year last year, Johnson was a top-10 running back in both formats. He's a threat in both aspects of the game and should be the focal point of the Cardinals new offense.
The Case Against: David Johnson's 2018 provides the case against looking at season-ending ranks. Yes, he finished top-10 in both formats. He also had seven games with fewer than 50 rushing yards and 10 games with fewer than 75 total yards. His best trait in 2018 was the fact that he stayed healthy for 16 games, which, of course, was not something he did in 2016 or 2017. The Cardinals are still likely to be a bad team and the offensive line will still be below average. It's hard to imagine an efficient season from Johnson, so he'll need another 300 touches and another year of good health to justify his ADP. With Kingsbury, Murray and the two receivers the Cardinals drafted, 300 touches doesn't seem near as likely as it once did.
7. Davante Adams, WR, GB
The Case For: Adams has scored double-digit touchdowns each of the past three seasons but he took a massive step forward in 2018. For the first time in his career he got a full season of No. 1 workload with Aaron Rodgers under center and he looked every bit the part. Not only did the Packers not add any competition for targets, they actually let Randall Cobb walk. Adams should be amongst the league leaders in every receiving category including Fantasy points. He has an excellent argument for the No. 1 receiver overall and will be taken in the first round of most drafts.
The Case Against: Adams averaged almost 30 yards per game more than he ever has in his career. He also posted a career-high catch rate. It's possible we see small regression in both areas. We also don't know exactly what the new offense is going to look like in Green Bay with its new coaching staff. It would be hard to see a downgrade in overall offensive efficiency from the past regime, but it's certainly possible the Packers don't plan on giving 170 targets to their No. 1 receiver. Adams is a safe bet to be a top-10 receiver in 2019, but you'll have to take him in the top three or four to get him.
6. Julio Jones, WR, ATL
The Case For: He has five straight seasons with at least 83 catches and at least 1,400 receiving yards. He's one of a handful of receivers who has a legitimate case to claim the mantle of "best wide receiver in the NFL". He has a talented quarterback in Matt Ryan, who has been with Jones through all of his success. Even the foot injury concerns seem to have passed with Jones playing at least 14 games in each of the past five seasons.
The Case Against: The touchdown thing is super annoying. Jones hasn't scored more than eight touchdowns since 2012, and he's scored six or fewer in three of his past five seasons. It doesn't make any sense and I don't even like factoring it into my projections, but it's pretty hard to continue ignoring. The one thing I will say that could be a problem is the run/pass split of the team as a whole. The Falcons had been more run-heavy as their defense improved, at least until last year. But remember, half of their defense got hurt in the first month of the season. If that unit bounces back and Ryan throws less, it could be difficult for Jones to justify a first-round pick.
5. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU
The Case For: Over the past two seasons only Julio Jones has more yards than Hopkins. Only Michael Thomas has more catches. No receiver has more touchdowns or Fantasy points. Hopkins is a remarkable player who just set the record for the most catches in one season without a single drop. He has a talented young quarterback in Deshaun Watson and gets a huge percentage of his team's targets. If you're in the back half of the draft and Hopkins is still there, you should consider yourself lucky.
The Case Against: The Texans enter 2019 with a couple of talented receivers other than Hopkins in Keke Coutee and Will Fuller. Neither has yet shown the ability to stay healthy in the NFL, but if they do it could put a small dent in Hopkins' target rate. That could be enough to knock him from his perch as the No. 1 receiver in Fantasy Football. The other concern is less likely, but could hurt Hopkins more. Watson's style as a quarterback and the Texans' terrible offensive line increase his injury risk. The team's backups are A.J. McCarron and Joe Webb. We've seen Hopkins succeed with some bad quarterbacks, but those two could make it very difficult for him to justify a first-round pick.
4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR
The Case For: McCaffrey answered the question of whether he could handle a feature role in 2018 and then some. He touched the ball 326 times and finished as the No. 1 running back in PPR formats. Despite that finish he won't likely go any higher than No. 3 overall and he may fall out of the top-five in some drafts. Over the past two seasons no running back has caught more passes than McCaffrey (187), and his rushing efficiency is boosted by the threat of Cam Newton as a runner. Those receptions give him a solid floor in PPR scoring. Barring an injury, it's hard to see how he doesn't finish as a top-five running back.
The Case Against: If there is a case against McCaffrey it centers around his lack of rushing touchdowns and the health of Cam Newton. Newton takes a big share of the Panthers touchdowns each year, and that won't likely change unless this shoulder injury is more serious than we currently believe. But if Newton's injury is serious, running lanes could clog up for McCaffrey and the offense may not get into scoring position as often.
3. Alvin Kamara, RB, NO
The Case For: I spent last offseason doubting whether Kamara could match his rookie-year efficiency. He didn't, but it barely mattered. It was largely because he scored an incredible number of touchdowns (18 on 275 touches). Here's the problem with doubting him again: He's an exceptionally talented back on one of the best offenses in the league. If anyone is going to continually smash efficiency expectations, it's probably him. Of course, the boost for Kamara could come from an increased workload, which would cover any drop in efficiency. Latavius Murray can handle Mark Ingram's role in the running game, but it's not hard to imagine Kamara seeing a small increase in touches and approaching 300 in 2019. He was on pace for 364 touches in four games without Ingram in 2018. If he comes close to that number he may just be the No. 1 running back.
The Case Against: Kamara was fairly touchdown-reliant last year, at least for an elite running back. He scored once every 15 touches. Christian McCaffrey scored once every 24 times he touched the ball, Barkley scored every 23 touches, Elliott once every 42. If he regresses to McCaffrey or Barkley's rate, he's still probably a top-five back in PPR, but any more than that wouldn't make you feel very good about the price you'll have to pay for him.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL
The Case For: This is going to sound crazy, but I'm still not sure people realize how good Elliott has been. That's partially because of his suspension and also because his offensive line is (rightly) given so much credit for his success. But just in case you're unaware, here's Elliott's 16-game pace for his entire career: 347 attempts, 1,619 rushing yards, 69 targets, 54 receptions, 480 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns. Even those numbers are skewed by the fact he only caught 58 passes in his first two seasons combined and only scored six rushing touchdowns last year. Elliott should be one of the first two players picked on draft day.
The Case Against: If you're one of those owners who worries about backs breaking down, Elliott might scare you a little bit. He'll be 24 years old at the start of the season, in the prime of his career, but the Cowboys have ridden him hard. He had 354 touches as a rookie and 381 in 15 games last year. In his suspension-shortened season, he averaged 27 touches per game. That's a lot of exposure to big hits.
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, NYG
The Case For: Barkley has everything you want in your No. 1 running back: Exceptional talent, success in the passing game, and an enormous workload. His production was so evenly balanced as a rookie, it's hard to see how he'd be stopped. He ran for more than 1,300 yards. He caught 91 passes. He scored 15 touchdowns. And he did it all efficiently. Barkley's youth, skill and usage should make him a top-two pick for many years to come and an easy choice at No. 1 overall in Dynasty.
The Case Against: This offense could be really bad. The Giants replaced Odell Beckham with Golden Tate, and they're either going to have Eli Manning or Daniel Jones at quarterback. It's really hard to be the best running back in Fantasy on one of the worst teams in football. Barkley's production and efficiency in the passing game took a major hit in the last four games of 2018 without Beckham. His catch rate dipped south of 60 percent and his yards per catch fell almost a full yard. He didn't score a receiving touchdown in those four games either.
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