Fantasy Football

2018 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Solo First Round


I hope everyone enjoyed their 2017 fantasy football season! Injuries headlined the 2017 NFL season which definitely shook up the rankings at the end of the year.

As the NFL combine quickly approaches next month, it is never too early to get into the mock draft season. There are some very promising rookies in this draft class that can make an immediate impact in fantasy drafts. A little break from football is never a bad thing. Besides, before we know it, it’ll be week one of the 2018 season.

One common trend in my mock draft is the presence of running backs. The running back position is stronger than ever and has quickly taken over the early rounds of fantasy drafts. It is only going to get stronger with the incoming draft class being one of the strongest running back classes in recent years.

The fall of the wide receiver has come. The wide receiver position is becoming very inconsistent from year to year and has only been consistent with a handful of guys. You’ll see some former first-round receivers now falling into the second or even third rounds due to the running back position prevailing.

2018 Fantasy Football Mock Draft

I conducted a 12 team mock draft a year ago. This season is no different as I will conduct a first-round mock draft in a 12 team ppr league. Not everyone is going to agree with my decisions, but I will deploy imperative stats to help get a feel for why I put each player in their respected spots. Without further ado, take a look at my very early 2018 mock draft.

No. 1: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

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Where do we begin with this guy? After a disappointing 2016 season, Gurley rebounded in a colossal way. With new head coach Sean McVay, Gurley thrived being in a competent offense. It was a career year for the former Georgia Bulldog as he set career highs in every major statistical category this past season.

The performance he put on for fantasy owners in the playoffs was historical. From weeks 13-16, Gurley averaged an eye-opening 36 fantasy points per game. In 10 of the 16 games played, he scored 20+ fantasy points. In seven games during the year, he averaged 25+ fantasy points in ppr leagues.

He single-handedly won fantasy championships in the playoffs. The addition of Sean Mcvay to the Rams coaching staff surely paid off for Gurley and the Rams team as a whole. They looked like a brand new team and the Rams have a bright future ahead of themselves.

Is Todd Gurley going to go nuts and mimic what he did in 2017? I doubt it. But nonetheless, it will be a struggle not picking Gurley with the first pick in drafts next year. He’s due for a regression sure, but do not make the mistake of letting him get past you with the first overall pick.

No. 2: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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The margin from the best player (Gurley) to the second best player (Bell) in fantasy leagues last season was appalling. It was nearly 50 points that separated the top two fantasy scorers. Bell’s usage in 2018 propelled compared to in previous seasons.

He had a total of 355 touches two years ago and finished last season with a career-high 406 touches. He averaged 21.4 carries per game while also finishing the season as the third leading rusher, behind rookie Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley.

With the enhanced workload, he still remained one of the most consistent running backs in fantasy football. Bell had nine games of 20+ fantasy points and six games of 25+ fantasy points. In the 15 games played, he scored a touchdown in eight of those games. The elusiveness along with his ability to gain yards in the open field makes him one of the toughest running backs to stop in the league.

His 85 catches in 2017 were a career-best along with having the 10th most receptions in the NFL. Le’Veon Bell exemplifies what a true workhorse running back is in the NFL. Yes, Todd Gurley had a phenomenal year last season, but don’t get too caught up in his season and just forget about what Le’Veon Bell accomplished. Bell is just slightly behind Gurley heading into next season.

No. 3 Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Is it even a question anymore on what receiver should be taken off the board first every year? Antonio Brown continues to prove to the NFL that he is indeed the best receiver in the league. The consistency he has shown over the years is astounding.

For the past five years, Brown has surpassed the 1,000-yard yard receiving mark while catching a total of 52 passes for a touchdown. This past season was one of the best years of his careers while missing the last two games of the season due to an injury.

He finished the season with the second most targets, hauling in 101 passes to lead the league. He averaged 20 fantasy points per game and was a lethal downfield target for Ben Roethlisberger. Anytime he needed a big play, Brown was there to produce. He makes the tough catches look easy as he hauled in nearly 65% of contested passes he saw.

It seems like Brown is on an island by himself regarding wide receivers. He saw at least 10 targets in 12 of the 14 full games he played in. The running back position has seemed to regain traction after the rookie running back class had a historic season. That should not allow Antonio Brown to be available at pick five. He is a no-brainer top-three pick in redraft leagues and there is no way around that.

No. 4 David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

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It was a short-lived 2017 season for David Johnson. He dislocated his left wrist in the season opener and never played another snap. Johnson was paramount to the Arizona Cardinals team during the 2016 season. He posted some startling numbers that included running for 1,200 yards while catching 80 passes for 879 yards. He was truly a fantasy stud.

We know what the 26-year-old is capable of doing in Arizona. With a new quarterback leading the way next season, the team might need to be even more dependant on Johnson. Larry Fitzgerald announced that he will play another year, but I would not be surprised to see David Johnson push him to lead the Cardinals in receiving. Keep in mind that he was just 121 yards away from 1,000 yards two years ago.

With a new quarterback in town and hardly any other help on the offensive end, David Johnson can return back into the player he was in the 2016 season, maybe even better. With most running backs not getting the opportunity that Johnson gets in a limited offense, it’s hard to imagine himself being taken anywhere past pick five. A returning David Johnson makes his way to pick number four for the 2018 fantasy season.

No. 5 Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

It’s almost a toss-up for me to decide what running back goes after Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley. I put Elliott behind David Johnson due to the fact that the Cardinals will rely on Johnson more than ever with a new quarterback under center, while the Cowboys will remain constant with Ezekiel Elliott.

The 2017 season was a roller coaster of a ride for the former Ohio State Buckeye. He missed six games during the regular season, which hurt the Cowboys team significantly. Even after missing six games, he still finished the season as a top 10 rusher. Elliott ran for 983 yards on 242 carries. Add six more games to those stats and he would’ve led the league in rushing with ease.

Not taking anything away from Elliott, but his limited ability in the passing game makes him the fourth running back taken off of the draft board. All four of the running backs listed ahead of him have established an imperative part in the passing game with their respected teams.

Zeke has a great opportunity to be atop the leaderboard in rushing yards every year running behind his superb offensive line. The 612 receiving yards in 25 career games played is the reason he comes after guys like David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley.

No. 6 Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

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If you had Alvin Kamara on your fantasy teams last season, he probably led your team to the playoffs. Once the Saints shipped off Adrian Peterson, Kamara went bananas, rewriting the rookie fantasy record books. He had just three weeks where he scored single digit fantasy points. Those weeks were 1, 2, and 14. So, basically, he scored single digits in his first two games of the season, where he had a total of 15 touches combined, and in week 14 where he got hurt after just three carries.

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Weeks 9-13 is where Kamara let the fantasy community know he was the real deal. Throughout those five weeks, Kamara scored more than 25+ in each, along with scoring at least one touchdown in every game. Even with splitting the load with Mark Ingram, Kamara finished the regular season with 728 rushing yards and 826 receiving yards and scoring 13 total touchdowns.

This was good enough to crown him rookie of the year, beating out Kareem Hunt, the NFL leading rusher. Kamara made his way to becoming one of the most efficient players in the NFL. The 6.1 yards per carry along with the 7.7 yards per touch he posted led the league.

The explosiveness along with his ability to make defenders miss made him one of the toughest runners to bring down in the open field. Kamara is truly a special player with a very bright future, earning his was at number six in my mock draft.

No. 7 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

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After a disappointing 2016 season, Hopkins bounced back to a great extent by finishing with the second most fantasy point amongst wide receivers in 2017. He ended the year with 96 catches for 1,378 yards while scoring 13 touchdowns. With DeShaun Watson under center, Hopkins posted some absurd numbers. Week three against the 49ers, he caught 11 of his 16 targets for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

Four weeks later he caught seven passes for 111 yards. And finally, the game against Seattle was the best game of the season for Nuk. He caught eight passes for a season-best 224 yards and one touchdown. Unfortunately, that would be Watson’s last game of the season before tearing his ACL in practice.

Even without Watson for half the season, Hopkins still managed to lead the league in touchdowns with 13. During the 2017 season, he made some glorious plays that only a select few receivers can make in this league. A healthy DeShaun Watson returning to the team next year only ascends Hopkins’ value even more.

He averaged 6.5 catches for 110 yards per game with Watson under center. The offseason should be a good one with Watson getting fully healthy. Look for Hopkins to have another big year in Houston with his starting quarterback coming back.

No. 8: Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Kareem Hunt enjoyed a very successful rookie season in the NFL. He led the league in rushing with 1,327 yards after beginning the season with a historic game against the Patriots. He finished the year with six games of 100 or more rushing yards. There was a big question mark to his production in the middle of the season.

From weeks 6-13, Hunt failed to finish a game with more than 90 rushing yards. In that same span, he finished with just two games posting 15 or more fantasy points. Averaging just 45 yards per game in those seven weeks really made fantasy owners thinking about trading him away.

From weeks 14-16, Hunt went on to averaged 26 carries, 120 yards and a touchdown per game. It was the perfect ending to an up-and-down first year. What made Hunt so explosive, was his ability to break away big runs from evading defenders. He went on to lead the league in runs of 15+ yards along with breaking 137 tackles.

Hunt found himself often hit early behind the offensive line, causing him to create his own yards for positive runs. In fact, he led the league in yards created with an imposing 632 yards. Kareem Hunt has established himself as the bell-cow in Kansas City, even with Spencer Ware coming back next season. Look for the 22-year-old to put up another season with big numbers with a new quarterback under center.

No. 9: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

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The season was looking bright for Odell Beckham Jr. After missing the first week of the season, Beckham went on to catch 25 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns before getting a season-ending injury. The Giants would struggle mightily with the absence of Odell. Rookie tight end Evan Engram would go on to lead the Giants receiving corps along with an inconsistent Sterling Sheppard finishing right behind him.

The Giants are a mess without Odell Beckham Jr in the lineup, and it just clarifies the imperative role he has on that team. However, let us not forget the kind of production Beckham posted during the 2016 football season. He finished the year with the second most targets, third-most receiving yards and third-most receptions in the league.

He finished inside the top five wide receivers for the 2016 fantasy season and his impact on the field translates well in terms of fantasy. Don’t let his season-ending injury last season be the reason why his value drops, you’ll regret that later. Odell Beckham Jr is an elite, proven receiver in the league that can put up some video game numbers throughout the season.

No. 10: Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

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Melvin Gordon enjoyed the best year of his career in 2017. The 1,105 rushing yards along with the 476 receiving yards ranked seventh out of all running backs. The carries, catches and receiving yards set career-high numbers for 24-year-old. He ended up finishing as the fifth best running backs in ppr leagues, sliding somewhat under the radar.

He finished the season with five top-5 finishes while averaging just above 18 points per game. Gordon scored 20+ fantasy points five times while scoring 30+ twice last season. He is a player that is heavily used in the red zone and is a primary focus to get the ball. He logged 57 touches in the red zone each of the past two seasons, a number that might remain constant throughout the years.

In a draft that has been dominated by running back early on, Gordon is my seventh running back taken off of draft boards. He gets the volume to produce some serious fantasy numbers along with finding the end zone frequently. During the past two seasons, he’s scored 24 total touchdowns after not scoring any his rookie year.

No. 11: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette enjoyed a very successful first year in Jacksonville. He racked up 1,040 yards on 268 carries on a predominantly run-oriented team. The rookie finished the season scoring 15+ fantasy points 10 times out of the 13 games played. He went on to average just about 18 fantasy points per game, ranking himself well within the top 10.

He finished as a top-five runner just once, in week five when he ran for 181 yards on 28 carries while scoring two touchdowns. The rookie finished the season with five games running for more than 100 yards, helping him to finish with the eighth most rushing yards in the league.

Moving forward, Fournette has the upside to finish inside the top ten amongst fantasy players for many years. With the uncertainty of Blake Bortles’ future in Jacksonville, it is imperative to keep feeding Fournette the ball as he is one of the toughest guys to bring down to the ground.

No. 12: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

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I’m sure Michael Thomas is not the most popular option to end the first round, but what is not to like about this guy? He’s clearly Drew Brees’ number one target and has made an immense impact his first two seasons in the NFL. He also made some history last year by becoming just the second player in NFL history to have 90+ catches in his first two seasons, the other player being Odell Beckham Jr.

In his rookie season, he finished as the WR8 in full ppr leagues, while finishing as WR5 this past season. Drew Brees has found himself a star in the making. Thomas saw 28% of the team’s targets this past season, ranking fifth best in the league. The 104 receptions he had in 2017 put him as the all-time leader for receptions in a single season in Saints history.

Michael Thomas has blossomed as a star in the NFL in just two seasons in the league. He’s got the ideal size to make plays against any corner in the league along with his freakish athleticism. I’m all in on Michael Thomas being a first-round selection in redraft leagues.

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About Michael Trivisonno

Michael is a big time NFL and sports fan who has been competing in fantasy football for years now. He goes in depth with stats and numbers to make his audience understand more not just about fantasy football, but about overall teams and players in the game. You can learn more about him by following him on twitter @Mike_Triv

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