The one thing this entire draft exercise taught me is that in a three-receiver PPR league I really prefer starting with three receivers and a running back in the first four rounds. If I'm not picking in the first three picks I'm probably taking that running back in Round 2. I don't believe in determining a strategy prior to the draft but this is definitely what I feel most comfortable with.
Picking from the No. 7 spot, I took JuJu Smith-Schuster to start my team off. I know that's a lot earlier than his ADP but I believe he has and I know Ben Gretch (who picked after me) agrees. Pairing him with Adam Thielen and Cooper Kupp gives me a receiving corps that is tough to beat. It almost feels like cheating to have a top-10 running back as well.
Here's my team from No. 7 overall:
- 1.7 JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT
- 2.6 Joe Mixon, RB, CIN
- 3.7 Adam Thielen, WR, MIN
- 4.6 Cooper Kupp, WR, LAR
- 5.7 Hunter Henry, TE, LAC
- 6.6 Duke Johnson, RB, HOU
- 7.7 Phillip Lindsay, RB, DEN
- 8.6 Royce Freeman, RB, DEN
- 9.7 Tyrell Williams, WR, OAK
- 10.6 LeSean McCoy, RB, BUF
- 11.7 Golden Tate, WR, NYG
- 12.6 Jared Goff, QB, LAR
- 13.7 Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
- 14.6 Mike Davis, RB, CHI
- 15.7 Carlos Hyde, RB, HOU
I'm going to discuss the Henry, Mixon and Smith-Schuster picks in depth below, but I do want to take a minute to talk about Kupp, because we may be overlooking just how good he was last year. In essentially seven games, he caught 40 passes for 566 yards and six touchdowns. That's an absurd pace and now he's entering his third year. There's a big group of upside receivers in Round 4 and 5 and Kupp is becoming one of my favorites.
When you only have one running back after five rounds you really have to make an effort to both swing for the fences and cover your floor. I did that with Johnson, Lindsay and Freeman in rounds six through eight, but the underrated pick might be LeSean McCoy. He's a starting running back available in Round 10 and he starts the year with the Jets, Giants and Bengals. He may just be my second-best running back over the first month of the season.
I know the quarterback value looks ridiculous, and you probably can't get either of these guys this late in your drafts. That's okay. Just remember that you can let a dozen quarterbacks go off the board and still find plenty of upside at quarterback. Both Goff and Roethlisberger have top-five potential.
I've actually moved Henry up quite a bit in my rankings just because he's looked like the player we saw in 2017. That player has huge value in this offense, especially since Antonio Gates is no longer standing in the way. Philip Rivers has regularly targeted his tight end at a high rate in his career and Henry has been remarkably efficient whenever the ball has come his way. I love getting him as the No. 6 tight end because the drop off after him is so pronounced. Henry has 900-yard and double-digit touchdown upside.
It doesn't feel great when your number one running back plays on a team like the Bengals. They look like the last place team in their division and Mixon was pretty terrible in games the Bengals lost last year. He's still at the top of a group of upside running backs that includes Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook and Kerryon Johnson but he's definitely a part of that group. If the offensive line is as bad as it could be and this team goes 4 and 12, Mixon may have a hard time hanging with those backs.
Like I said, I believe JuJu Smith-Schuster has the upside the lead the receiver position is just about every statistic that matters. I project him to lead the position in targets, and a 200-target season is within the realm of possibility. Ben Roethlisberger relies heavily on his No. 1 receiver and I still expect the Steelers to be very pass-happy. Smith-Schuster's touchdown numbers should explode after only scoring seven last year. There are some who think he could struggle with the extra defensive attention. I don't agree, but that could definitely break this team if it happens.