This is the final draft weekend before kickoff on Thursday when the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers. For those of us who have drafted more times than we can count, it's been an interesting preseason. Here are some thoughts on the current draft season. All ADP notes are based upon a 12-team league.
What Should I Do About Ezekiel Elliott?
Zeke started the preseason ranked #2 firmly behind Saquon Barkley. As news of the holdout started, his ranking held steady. As it became more prolonged, his stock started to slide. For much of the past month, he's been at #4, but if you're drafting this weekend, you can now find him at the end of the first round. With Jerry Jones posturing this week about not expecting to see Zeke for several regular season games and highlighting the fact that they've had him for a few years now without a Superbowl appearance, missing Week 1 is a very real possibility. The Cowboys are a much better team with Ezekiel Elliott so we know Jerry is going to want to get him on the field, but the timeline is as clear as mud right now. If you drafted Zeke in the first round, you'll just have to stash him and bear it. If you plan on drafting him this week, just know that you may not have him right away. Taking Tony Pollard in the ninth or tenth round should be a priority for you.
What Should I Do About Melvin Gordon?
Gordon's consensus ADP has him going in the fourth round. This is a guy that was going fifth overall in June. It's difficult to project when he'll return to the team making him a risky play. If you can get him in the fifth round (or sixth round if you're lucky), pull the trigger. He's still going to be an RB1 when he gets on the field, but like Zeke above, we just need to get him on the field. In the meantime, look for Austin Ekeler to step up in his absence. You can get Ekeler in the next two rounds after Gordon goes - a high price to pay in my opinion.
Fantasy Owners Need Some Luck (to help with Hilton and Mack)
Andrew Luck shocked the NFL and fantasy world when he announced his retirement. For those of us who had already drafted, it meant a scramble to pick up one of the draft leftovers to replace him. For those preparing to enter the draft room, his departure is bad news for his supporting cast. Both T.Y. Hilton and Marlon Mack have seen their ADP slide. Mack is now going in the fourth with Hilton going in the fifth. Just a few weeks ago, you would have had to pay a full round difference for either guy. Hilton dropped further because his fate is more closely tied to Jacoby Brissett. We have some history here to reflect upon. In 2017, Brissett and Hilton played 15 games together. Hilton averaged 3.6 receptions and 61 yards in each of those games making him a low-end WR2. You can't spend a high draft pick for a borderline WR2.
Is This the Year for Jameis Winston?
Winston was drafted earlier this year as most people's backup QB. It might be a bumpy ride, but Jameis Winston enters 2019 with the profile of a legitimate starting quarterback for fantasy, worth targeting in the mid-to-late rounds. With free agency looming, this is Winston's last chance to prove he's the Buccaneers' quarterback of the future. Good thing he's basically the only viable option on the team, so he's going to get a long leash even in those games when he loses the rope. With two potential Pro Bowl receivers, an emerging tight end, and a head coach who relishes taking big shots, Winston still carries huge potential. If you waited to draft a QB, Winston should absolutely be in your sights. He has one of the easiest schedules among QB's and could easily finish inside the Top 10-12 when it's all said and done.
Is the Duke a Guy to Target?
Lamar Miller might not have been a sexy pick in fantasy, but he was consistently reliable. The Texans had gotten Duke Johnson from Cleveland before losing Miller for the season to a torn ACL, and that deal seems fortuitous now. Can the Duke be a fantasy RB to rely on? Yes...I think so, and his ADP would suggest that others agree. He was already brought into Houston to catch passes out of the backfield, but the real question is whether or not he can handle a larger workload. This seems like a safe assumption. He averaged 18 carries and 6.5 YPC each game as a senior at Miami. Just because the Browns didn't fully utilize him doesn't mean that the Texans won't. The Houston offense is powerful and the opportunity for Duke is incredible. He's going in the sixth round and worthy of your draft pick.
Update: Carlos Hyde has been traded to the Texans. While Duke Johnson is still worth drafting, his value takes a hit with Hyde's arrival
Should I Draft Kalen Ballage Instead of Kenyan Drake?
The simplest answer is...No. I get it folks. The moment Drake was seen in a walking boot, his ADP started sliding like the stock market on rumors of a trade war. As a pure runner, there's no comparison between Drake and Ballage in my opinion. Drake's route running is better and his ability to make the first defender miss is much, much higher than Ballage. Now, there's a wrinkle that is at least worth pausing for a moment to consider. There are rumors that Drake may be part of trade to acquire unsigned Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. If that happens, ignore everything you just read because it will be the Ballage show in Miami at that point. Rumors...
Do I Need One of the Top Tight Ends?
No, not necessarily. Only three of your league mates can have Ertz, Kelce, and Kittle. If you're not one of those guys, rest easy. While the TE position is not as deep as the other positions, there's still value to be had here. O.J. Howard has the potential to be a top talent at his position if he can stay healthy. Another guy who has the potential but carries injury risk is Hunter Henry - a redzone target that's for sure. You can always take Evan Engram as well for consistent production. Any of these guys have the ability to finish inside the Top 5 each week and you won't have to spend an early-round pick for them. If you're busy stocking up on RBs and WRs, you can draft Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, or Delanie Walker and feel just fine about it. These are all Top 10 picks, so if the elite guys come off the board, don't sweat it. You still have options.