Fantasy Football: Looking ahead to the first round for 2018

The NFL playoffs haven't even started yet for the 2017 season, but we're already looking ahead to next year. Hey, that's what we do -- turn the page and move on.

With that in mind, it's time to take an early peek at the first round for 2018. We have three top 12 lists for you to start mulling over from me, Dave Richard and Heath Cummings.

A lot will change between now and August -- coaching changes, free agency and the NFL Draft -- but this is how we feel about the first round of a standard league now after what we just witnessed in 2017.

Jamey Eisenberg's first round

  1. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams 
  2. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers 
  3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys 
  4. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals 
  5. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans 
  6. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers 
  7. Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs 
  8. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers 
  9. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars 
  10. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints 
  11. Odell Beckham, WR, Giants 
  12. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints

The top four players are fairly obvious, and it's hard to argue against Gurley as the No. 1 overall player after he just dominated in 2017. He benefited immensely with the addition of new coach Sean McVay, an improved Jared Goff and an upgraded offensive line, which could still improve next year.

Bell should be No. 2 given his track record, but we have to see about his contract status, as well as if Ben Roethlisberger is back given last year's retirement talk. If Bell and Roethlisberger remain in Pittsburgh as expected, Bell should once again post outstanding stats.

Elliott doesn't have to worry about a suspension in 2018, and he was great when on the field this season. He scored double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in nine of 10 games, and he should continue to be the catalyst of the Cowboys offense.

Johnson should return at 100 percent from the broken wrist that he sustained in Week 1 last year, but we have to wait and see who will be the Cardinals coach now that Bruce Arians retired. We're also waiting to see who will be under center for the Cardinals, with Carson Palmer announcing his retirement Tuesday. But no matter what happens with those two spots, Johnson should still have the chance for another big year now that he's healthy.

After the top four running backs, this is where the receivers start to factor in, and I like Hopkins thismuch better than Brown. I might change my mind on that 100 times before August, but Hopkins with a healthy DeShaun Watson (knee) was a beast in 2017. In Watson's final four starts before getting hurt, Hopkins averaged 18.5 Fantasy points in a standard league.

I can see the three running backs after Brown drafted in any order, but I like Hunt the best based on Andy Reid's track record with running backs. Gordon has proven himself as a Fantasy standout for the past two years, and Fournette is oozing with upside but also has a slight injury concern dating back to his college days at LSU.

Things definitely get interesting at No. 10 overall, and I could see Beckham moving to that spot if he's healthy after his leg injury in Week 5, as well as what happens with the Giants new coach and Eli Manning. Beckham could be in a contract year, and that motivation might lead to a monster campaign.

But I'll go with Kamara at No. 10 overall, which would be solidified if Mark Ingram is not back with the Saints. Per the terms of his contract, if Ingram is chosen as a First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press, his contract automatically voids.

That seems like a long shot to happen given the production for Gurley and Bell this season, as well as Kamara, but I expect Kamara to take on a bigger role in 2018. He was the No. 4 running back in standard leagues despite just 201 total touches, but he managed more than 1,500 total yards and 13 touchdowns.

Kamara and Ingram will be drafted no later than the second round in all leagues if both remain with the Saints. And Thomas will also be drafted in the first 15 overall picks as a third-year receiver with tremendous upside. Thomas closed the regular season with 90 receiving yards or a touchdown in six of his final eight games.

Dave Richard's first round

  1. Todd Gurley, RB Rams
  2. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
  3. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
  4. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
  5. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
  6. Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs
  7. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
  8. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
  9. Odell Beckham, WR, Giants
  10. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
  11. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
  12. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings

As you can see, Dave and I have several players that we agree on with our first 12 picks, but the order is different. The No. 1 discrepancy is Bell, and I'd be shocked if he was drafted lower than No. 2 overall if he's healthy and remains with the Steelers, as well as Roethlisberger coming back.

Dave is confident in Fournette remaining a consistent Fantasy running back, and he expects the Jaguars to upgrade their offensive line in 2018. He also is sticking with Brown's track record over Hopkins, and I expect most Fantasy players to follow suit, which is totally understandable.

I like Dave's confidence in Cook, who is coming back from last year's torn ACL in Week 4. Prior to getting hurt, Cook had double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in three of his first four games, and Jerick McKinnon is a free agent this offseason. I might agree with Dave on Cook as a first-round pick by the time we get to August.

Heath Cummings' first round

  1. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams 
  2. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers 
  3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys 
  4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans 
  5. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers 
  6. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals 
  7. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons 
  8. Odell Beckham, WR, Giants 
  9. Davante Adams, WR, Packers 
  10. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals 
  11. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints 
  12. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

Heath is sticking with the receivers when it comes to his first round, and he expects Jones, Beckham, Adams and Green to be drafted ahead of guys like Hunt, Gordon and Fournette. I'd be surprised if Fantasy owners felt the same way, and my expectation is several of those receivers, along with Mike Evans, will be drafted in the second round.

Heath also expects Ingram to be better than Kamara in 2018, which could happen, and Ingram had just 14 Fantasy points less than Kamara this past year. As stated above, I expect Kamara's workload to increase in 2018, which would come at the expense of Ingram.

I like that Heath ranked Gronkowski in his top 12, and I might put him on my list as well. My only trepidation with doing it was Travis Kelce finished within eight Fantasy points of Gronkowski in standard leagues, and Zach Ertz was 30 points behind. It might be better value to let someone else draft Gronkowski in Round 1, and you can get Kelce in Round 2 or Ertz in Round 3.

Again, a lot will change with these rankings between now and the end of the summer. But for now, start thinking about your Draft Day for 2018. It's never too early to start planning ahead.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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