We're midway through the 2018 NFL season. Some of the shit I spoke on in the summer has been spot on. A lot of it has been miserable. I thought it'd be fun to re-do the first round of a 2018 Fantasy Football draft knowing what we know eight weeks later - snap shares, offensive lines, rookies, horrible coaching tendencies, etc.
1. Todd Gurley - RB, Los Angeles Rams
2018, 16-Game Pace: 2,302 YFS- 30 TDs - 400 Touches - 62 Receptions
I don't know why I thought Gurley wasn't the clear #1 in 2018. A horrible mistake by me had I not overlooked, I probably would be comfortably in first place in 4 of my 5 redraft leagues.
2. Melvin Gordon - RB, Los Angeles Chargers
2018, 16-Game Pace: 1,702 YFS - 24 TDs - 323 Touches - 80 Receptions
Having an elite workhorse RB is the most valuable thing you can have in fantasy football. Gordon is all of that and then some.
During the summer we heard the talk of Gordon getting more involved in the passing game. And I kind of brushed it aside because he had a career-high 57 receptions last year and I'm thinking that's already a lot, how much more damage can he do, even if he adds another 10 catches what's that 5 FPs extra? Plus another 8-10 on the year for yards? I also figured Ekeler will be just as big a part of this offense so it would be hard for Gordon to hit that ceiling in the passing game. Proved my ass wrong. The Chargers are targeting their RBs on 31% of their passes this year, 3rd highest in the NFL behind the Pats and NO, with the single highest success rate per SharpFootballStats.com. When they are in the RZ, that number jumps up to 41%. In 2017, Gordon had just 10 RZ targets and 5 10Z targets on the entire szn. In 2018, he's played in just 6 games. He has 10 RZ targets and 8 10Z targets... And it's obviously come at the detriment of Keenan Allen.
Another huge difference is Gordon's ability to score inside the RZ where has already converted 6 RZ rushes into scores, whereas he had 7 RZ scores in the entirety of 2017. Gordn's just been a new back this year, better than ever. He's averaging 5.1 YPC, 3.2 YAC, and is 4th in the NFL in tackles avoided/attempt.
That along with the offensive line play. The Chargers are PFF's #10th highest graded run-blocking line in the NFL in 2018. Last year they were 13th, so a slight improvement. They were 26th per FO's DVOA last year, this year they're 9th.
3. Kareem Hunt - RB, Kansas City Chiefs
2018, 16-Game Pace: 1,708 YFS - 20 TDs - 308 Touches - 40 Receptions
For the same reason, I shouldn't have let Todd Gurley be my RB3 in drafts this summer, Hunt is up here for me. Fantasy doesn't have to be complicated. Hunt is the clear workhorse in the league's best offense, arguably the best offense of the last five or so years. The scoring opportunities Hunt is getting are ridiculously high and I don't see any type of regression coming for this Kansas City offense.
Much like Gordon's usage in the passing game by the endzone, Hunt has already seen as much or more usage down there. In 2017, he saw a total of 9 RZ targets and 3 10Z targets. In 2018, he already has 8 RZ and 5 10Z targets. Of course, with the ridiculous volume that the Chiefs offense has near the endzone, it's easy to see why. It's impossible for defenses to narrow in on Hunt when Hill, Kelce and Watkins are running around too.
Hunt is tied with Gordon with the 4th highest tackles evaded/attempt in the NFL per PFF.
It's just another great RB, featured in a high-powered offense.
4. Saquon Barkley - RB, New York Giants
2018, 16-Game Pace: 2,032 YFS - 14 TDs - 338 Touches - 116 Receptions
I think Saquon is the best running back in the NFL. I think he's better than Gurley, and I actually don't think it's close. Unfortunately, that doesn't matter one kilofuck when it comes to fantasy football. Barkey is stuff on the Giants in rebuild mode while Gurley is on the NFL's best team with the best offensive-minded coach on planet earth.
Barkley is a tricky one for me. Not for drafting, I want him on my team, but the thing about looking back on good or bad draft picks, is learning from them. What makes me question this is like, you could almost say Barkley and David Johnson had the exact same outlook going into the year, same question marks, right? Elite talent. Elite pass-catchers. Bad QB. Bad offensive line. Bad team overall. So, just as easily could Johnson be doing what Barkley is, and Barkley what Johnson is. That's what kind of fucks with me. The difference seemed to be the OC, Mike McCoy, but it's that minor thing that makes the difference, you know.
All that said, it's possible that Barkley is just too good to fail anywhere. Give him 300+ touches and he's going to be a top-5 fantasy RB. His involvement in the passing game is what truly gets him here, and his pace for 116 receptions. If Barkley can get it done in this 2018 NYG offense, I can't imagine what he'd do in a good one.
5. Adam Thielen - WR, Minnesota Vikings
Thiel gawd. Just absolute craziness. Eight straight games to start the season with 100+ receiving yards. Scoring in 6 of them. I can understand why you might take AB here, but outside of just saying his name, Antonio Brown, I'm not sure I could make an argument for him over Brown. Thielen's worse game this year was Week 1 where he went 6-102. Since then, his worst PPR fantasy day was 24.5 points. He's 6th in the NFL with a 28% target share on his team. And it's not to the detriment of Diggs, who is also seeing 25% of the targets. There's no reason to bet against Thielen.
2018, 16-Game Pace: 196 Targets - 148 Recs. - 1,880 yards - 12 TDs
6. Antonio Brown - WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
AB is gonna AB. That's it.
2018, 16-Game Pace: 183 Targets - 105 Recs. - 1,262 yards - 18 TDs
7. DeAndre Hopkins - WR, Houston Texans
2018, 16-Game Pace: 156 Targets - 106 Recs. - 1,578 yards - 12 TDs
I got a lot of hate when I said I wouldn't take Hopkins 7th overall this summer, which was his ADP coming into drafts. While he's been great, he hasn't been like to 1 or 2 or even 3, he's WR6 in FPPG - behind Thielen, Adams, AB, Evans and Tyreek. But Hopkins is just too consistent and talented to do anything but succeed. He leads the NFL with 12 targets inside the 10-yard line. Only three players had more than 12 all of last year, Hopkins only had 10. He also has a 43% EZ share per PlayerProfiler.
8. Davante Adams - Green Bay Packers
2018, 16-Game Pace: 178 Targets - 119 Recs. - 1,577 yards - 14 TDs
The easy argument for Adams during the summer was that he's the #1 WR tethered to an Aaron Rodgers offense. This held true. It's hard to think of many players that have made the development over a few year span that Adams has made. He was a joke during his first two years in GB. Jokes are only on the CBs that try to cover him now. People were worried about his schedule coming into the year as he'd have to face Xavier Rhodes, Josh Norman, Tre'Davious White, Darius Slay, Sherman, Talib (out for this week) over the first half of the year. It was perfectly sound analysis. But Adams has wiped the floor with every one of them, and it's because he's become one of the league's best route runners. He's super quick in and out of his cuts, and his hands are very reliable, he even ranks 61st in catchable target rate per PlayerProfiler.com.
So, yeah. You're getting a guy who has a 34% air yard share, a 27% target share and a 41% RZ share of the best QB in the world. Gimme Adams please.
9. Ezekiel Elliott - Dallas Cowboys
2018, 16-Game Pace: 1,815 YFS - 9 TDs - 359 Touches - 57 Receptions
Zeke is an interesting one. From one angle, you see Zeke is averaging 4.7 ypc, last year it was 4.1. He already has 25 receptions this year, that's 3.6/game. He had 26 all of last year and 32 during his rookie year. He's going to smash those numbers. But the YPR have been in the double digits in each of those seasons and now it's hovering right at 7.0.
The volume is the difference for Zeke, particularly near the EZ, which is due to the team's struggles on offense. In 2018, Zeke has had fewer than 18 carries in 4-of-7 (57%) games. From 2016-2017, in 25 games, he had fewer than 18 carries in 3-of-25 (12%) games. Which isn't terribly concerning, like an extra three carries will net you maybe 10-15 rushing yards/game, but:
That's the problem, or what most would assume to be the problem. Zeke is still on pace for 1,800+ YFS and 9 TDs, you would take that in a heartbeat in your RB1. People are getting spoiled with RB production in this year so Zeke looks really bad. Especially when he doesn't have that 15-20 TD upside like some people may have expected.
The other thing was, of course, the offensive line with the injuries and missing players has taken a bit of step back.
While it's not as much of a concern, because they're still very good, it doesn't help. It's the offense overall that hurts Zeke the most.
10. Alvin Kamara - New Orleans Saints
2018, 16-Game Pace: 1,831 YFS - 20.5 TDs - 318 Touches - 107 Receptions
Kamara is another interesting one here. We knew he'd dominate touches over the first four weeks of the season. And he did that. What we didn't know was what it would look like when Ingram was back. We do now, and it's this:
That's really all there is to it. Ingram is very much a thing when he's active. They've split the touches exactly 48-48, while Kamara has out-snapped Ingram 108-94. Kamara is till very much an RB1, and will give you some monster games, especially in PPR, but he's not the high-end RB1 that we saw over the first month. I'd still love him on my team, in one of the league's best offenses, behind a great offensive line.
11. Joe Mixon - Cincinnati Bengals
2018, 16-Game Pace: 1,664 YFS - 13.3 TDs - 331 Touches - 51 Receptions
Mixon has looked every bit the elite prospect many expected to see coming out of Oklahoma in his sophomore NFL season.
Mixon is being used as the workhorse that he should be used like. He falls this low because I don't trust this offense, more importantly, the coach I should say. I also don't think they use him correctly. He's an amazing pass-catcher but they don't use him that way. The best offenses get their RBs involved through the air on early downs, get them in space and let them work. In neutral game scripts (up or down 7), the Bengals target their RBs on 1st/2nd down on 21% of their pass plays, which is below league average. When you have a guy like Mixon, that number should be far higher. Not just dump offs or last resorts on 3rd and long, etc.
We saw how good he looked in the preseason running routes from the slot, from outside, wheel routes. That hasn't been the case this season. He has had just one game where he's run more than two plays out wide, and zero games with more than two snaps from the slot. They don't use him correctly given his skillset.
He's still a workhorse in an above average, if noa t good offense, but I think his ceiling is a little low given the coaching ability.
12. Christian McCaffrey - Carolina Panthers
2018, 16-Game Pace: 1,653 YFS - 7 TDs - 311 Touches - 101 Receptions
If you had told me in the beginning of the season that C-Mac would touch the ball over 300 times (on pace for 308), he would've been a no-brainer 1st round pick. His YPC, which everyone was so concerned about after his rookie mark of 3.7 has shot up to 4.6. But the volatility in his usage and touchdowns is still a concern. From Weeks 1-7, he had just one score. Last Week he scored twice making his numbers look good, but it's a worry. The offensive line has been killed by injuries and are 7th worst in the NFL per PFF.
The other thing which we knew would play a role is his usage on the GL. He has just one single GL carry on the year. Cam has 3. He only has 1 targets inside the 10 on the year as well, when last year he had 8.
Even his bad games, though, are useful and he's definitely not going to lose you your league. He's scored double-digit FPs in every game this year (0.5 PPR) and never below 13.6 PPR points in a game, scoring 20 in 4-of-7. It might not be pretty but he gets it done. He moves up a bit if it is full PPR obviously.
There are obviously guys that were extremely hard to leave off this list, mainly WRs. I'll get the most push back on Michael Thomas most likely. I just don't think I'd take him over these RBs at the end. Since Ingram's return, Thomas' production has massively fell off. The Saints as a team threw the ball on 64% of their plays in Week 1-4 without Ingram. Ingram returns in Week 5 and have thrown the ball on the 2nd lowest % of plays in the NFL.
There's no question that Thomas is a stud and the elite WR1 in this offense, but idk this is just where I peg him. Julio is, of course, another one as well as OBJ. For OBJ I just don't want a player linked to a bad offense and QB, when you can take Brown, Thielen, Adams, Hopkins, Thomas all tethered to good QBs and great offenses (arguably the exception of Hopkins). Julio Jones just can't get the ball in the EZ. I have no analysis on this other than .. sure. A.J. Green could definitely be argued into this, but idk, he's still only WR8 on the year (0.5 PPR FPPG). I definitely wouldn't fault anyone for taking him in the top 12, but he's just not that exciting to me. He doesn't have a game with more than 7 catches and usually settles between 60-90 receiving yards.