I'm typically more comfortable than most forgoing running backs early in PPR drafts, but in non-PPR, it's a good idea to keep your head down and nab a potential star at the position.
When running backs went off the board with seven of the first eight picks in a recent non-PPR draft, it became clear I was going to be able to grab an elite WR in the second round. So I stayed the course and selected my No. 7 RB, Dalvin Cook, then scooped up Odell Beckham in the second round.
By the end of the third, I wouldn't say I was surprised to see Aaron Jones, because he does typically go in that range. But I do think it's a bit of a miss-pricing by the market after he had some hamstring tightness early in camp and then never played in the preseason. But Jones was back at practice way back on Aug. 10 and would have played in the Packers' third preseason game if not for field condition issues in Winnipeg that caused both the Packers and Raiders to rest their starters. Because of all that, drafters haven't seen him all through August, and he's arguably now at a bit of a discount.
Here's how the rest of the draft played out.
- 1.09 Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
- 2.04 Odell Beckham, WR, Browns
- 3.09 Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
- 4.04 Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers
- 5.09 Mike Williams, WR, Chargers
- 6.04 Curtis Samuel, WR, Panthers
- 7.09 Rashaad Penny, RB, Seahawks
- 8.04 Royce Freeman, RB, Broncos
- 9.09 Justice Hill, RB, Ravens
- 10.04 Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos
- 11.09 Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
- 12.04 Jordan Reed, TE, Washington
- 13.09 Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals
- 14.04 Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens
- 15.09 Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
Three straight wide receivers came after the Jones pick, and it's three of thethat is tantalizing this year. From there, it was three upside backup running backs, and there isn't a pick in that range I would take back. While I recognize guys like Penny, Freeman and Hill are low-probability hits, they all bring very high upside if they do pan out, and taking three on the same roster logically increases the odds that something sticks.
In the latter part of the draft, I paired Jordan Reed, a favorite late-round tight end until another concussion has added some uncertainty to his readiness for the season, with a favorite upside play at the position in Mark Andrews. Andrews was the top target for Lamar Jackson last season, and grabbing both of them gives me an intriguing late-round stack at the positions I waited on to pair with a loading starting lineup at RB and WR.
There aren't many true sleepers in this day and age, but Sutton qualifies this year. Lost in the excitement of Emmanuel Sanders' quick return from an Achilles injury at the age of 32 is that Sanders' role had already started to shift as he aged. His average depth of target (aDOT) over the past four years has gone from 13.8 in 2015 to 12.3, 10.7 and finally 9.4 before his injury last season. Meanwhile, Sutton was gobbling up the deep targets, posting an aDOT of 14.0 on his 84 looks. And while his 50% catch rate looks scary, the former top prospect still posted a rock solid 8.4 yards per target despite 23 uncatchable targets. He'll maintain the deep role in 2019, and if Joe Flacco can get a higher percentage of those targets within Sutton's grasp than Case Keenum did, Sutton has plenty of ability to break out.
This is a draft that worked out well enough that even when some of my upside bets don't pan out, I won't necessarily regret making those decisions. But Reed is a challenging one, because he's had more than a half dozen documented concussions — so many that the true number seems to vary based on the source, sometimes seven, sometimes eight — and it's entirely possible Washington treats him with caution not just early in the season but throughout. There are few teams that have less to play for this year. Of course, Reed was a late-round option and if he does struggle to stay on the field, he's not someone you have to hang onto in Fantasy.
It's the trio of backs I took in the mid-rounds that will make or break this roster, and Penny was the first I selected so he's certainly the one I have the highest hopes for. Chris Carson has solidified his early-season lead back status this preseason, but Penny is still a former first-round pick who was productive in his limited action last year, and the Seahawks have all the incentive in the world to give him opportunities to produce. Expect Penny to work behind Carson early but potentially earn an even share (or more) of a run-heavy offense by midseason.