The 2019 Apex Experts draft kicked off its annual festivities on the first day of August. This is one of my favorite events every year, and it’s again stocked with the best minds in the fantasy industry. Last year, I was lucky enough to make the finals where I fell to Denny Carter.1 As we learned earlier in the week, Zero RB quietly posted a 14% win rate in 2018. Despite the presence of the uber-backs, the Apex results followed those WR-heavy trends. None of the teams that finished first, second, or third selected an RB in the first three rounds.
As we move through the 2019 draft, I’m going to update as frequently as possible and provide some commentary on how the draft is progressing.
1.01 Rich Hribar – Saquon Barkley
1.02 Graham Barfield – Alvin Kamara
1.03 Evan Silva – Christian McCaffrey
1.04 Patrick Daugherty – Ezekiel Elliott
1.05 Matt Kelley – DeAndre Hopkins
1.06 Sigmund Bloom – Travis Kelce
1.07 Matt Harmon – David Johnson
1.08 JJ Zachariason – Davante Adams
1.09 Shawn Siegele – Michael Thomas
1.10 Denny Carter – Julio Jones
1.11 Mike Braude – Odell Beckham
1.12 Mike Clay – Le’Veon Bell
I’m always interested in the order of the uber-backs as they come off the board to start 2019 drafts. Rich isn’t afraid of the Giants offense and uses the 1.01 on Barkley. With such an astonishing blend of size, speed, and power, Barkley is uniquely equipped to overcome his offense’s limitations. If he stays healthy for 16 games, 100 receptions might even be his floor.
Graham Barfield gets a blend of Marshall Faulk and Priest Holmes at the 1.02. Although the Saints will rotate their backs to some extent, Kamara’s profile in this offense gives him the most upside of any player. The numbers he posted during Mark Ingram’s suspension were unreal.2
Christian McCaffrey is the top player in our projections and tumbles to Evan Silva at No. 3. He’s followed by Elliott to RotoPat. The No. 1 pick in my SFB division, Elliott becomes a trickier selection as his holdout progresses.
My selection: Michael Thomas. I deliberated between Thomas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham, ultimately siding with the safer Thomas, while hoping that one of the others – specifically Smith-Schuster – might come back around. There are other intriguing options for playing the high-powered offenses in Atlanta and Cleveland, but you need Thomas to gain Saints exposure.
2.01 Mike Clay – Tyreek Hill
2.02 Mike Braude – JuJu Smith-Schuster
2.03 Denny Carter – Mike Evans
2.04 Shawn Siegele – George Kittle
2.05 JJ Zachariason – Antonio Brown
2.06 Matt Harmon – Keenan Allen
2.07 Sigmund Bloom – Joe Mixon
2.08 Matt Kelley – Melvin Gordon
2.09 Patrick Daugherty – T.Y. Hilton
2.10 Evan Silva – Amari Cooper
2.11 Graham Barfield – James Conner
2.12 Rich Hribar – Dalvin Cook
The first half of the round saw five more WRs go off the board, and we didn’t have our first RB until Joe Mixon at 2.07. The experts didn’t want to chase RB points, and that left four teams without an RB through two rounds. Three of those teams were the top three finishers from 2018, each of them reprising their winning tactics.
Mixon is my pick to be this year’s McCaffrey, while he and Dalvin Cook were two of the only early-round backs who don’t make the All-Avoid Team. Rich started WR-WR in the MFL10 of Death VI, but he owns one of the best possible RB-RB starts out the 1-slot.
My selection: George Kittle. Kittle set a new standard for TE receiving yards with 1,377 in 2018. His production gives him the ability to score like an elite WR but at a position that’s much more difficult to fill. The 49ers have added weapons in the receiving game, and these ancillary pieces will make it harder for defenses to focus on their star TE. The return of Jimmy Garoppolo gives Kittle the chance to be more competitive with Kelce in the TD department.
3.01 Rich Hribar – Damien Williams
3.02 Graham Barfield – Nick Chubb
3.03 Evan Silva – Kerryon Johnson
3.04 Patrick Daugherty – Stefon Diggs
3.05 Matt Kelley – Todd Gurley
3.06 Sigmund Bloom – Devonta Freeman
3.07 Matt Harmon – Zach Ertz
3.08 JJ Zachariason – Julian Edelman
3.09 Shawn Siegele – Brandin Cooks
3.10 Denny Carter – Adam Thielen
3.11 Mike Braude – Aaron Jones
3.12 Mike Clay – Leonard Fournette
Rich and Graham both begin RBx3. Chubb is likely the bigger natural talent, but Williams’ hybrid profile gives him overall RB1 upside in the Kansas City offense. Including the playoffs, he scored 25 or more points in four of his final five games.
Kerryon Johnson was my third-round target in How to Avoid the Land Mines and Still Execute an RB-Heavy Start. If the Lions can get their offense out of neutral, we may be talking about Johnson as a competitor for the first five overall picks in 2020. Zach Ertz to Matt Harmon at 3.07 is basically my pick of Kittle, but with a more established player at a full round discount.
My Pick: Brandin Cooks. I want plenty of shares of all three members of the Rams triumvirate, and Cooks is a uniquely safe selection as a young star in a juggernaut offense. He’s one of my 5 Foundation Players for 2019 Drafts.
4.01 Mike Clay – Josh Jacobs
4.02 Mike Braude – Robert Woods
4.03 Denny Carter – Kenny Golladay
4.04 Shawn Siegele – Patrick Mahomes
4.05 JJ Zachariason – Chris Godwin
4.06 Matt Harmon – Tyler Lockett
4.07 Sigmund Bloom – Allen Robinson
4.08 Matt Kelley – D.J. Moore
4.09 Patrick Daugherty – Mark Ingram
4.10 Evan Silva – Tyler Boyd
4.11 Graham Barfield – Cooper Kupp
4.12 Rich Hribar – Calvin Ridley
With only two RBs coming off the board, Round 4 demonstrated what should happen in this format. Runners in Rounds 3 and 4 have been absolute murder on fantasy owners. RBs held a 17-16 advantage through three rounds, but the WRs fought back with nine of the 12 selections here.
My selection: Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is just after D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley, and Tyler Boyd in my redraft rankings, but I wanted to see where those three players would go in a draft of this format and caliber. None of them made it out of the fourth round. I like to play slightly more unusual constructions in expert leagues, and one way to do that is grab a player like Mahomes even though scarcity isn’t an issue at QB. Filling the QB and TE slots with true stars helps to maximize the value of your eventual breakout players.3
5.01 Rich Hribar – Alshon Jeffery
5.02 Graham Barfield – Mike Williams
5.03 Evan Silva – Marlon Mack
5.04 Patrick Daugherty – Dante Pettis
5.05 Matt Kelley – Christian Kirk
5.06 Sigmund Bloom – Sammy Watkins
5.07 Matt Harmon – Derrick Henry
5.08 JJ Zachariason – Chris Carson
5.09 Shawn Siegele – Robby Anderson
5.10 Denny Carter – A.J. Green
5.11 Mike Braude – Jarvis Landry
5.12 Mike Clay – James White
Round 5 continued the WR momentum with five selected in the first six picks. By the end of this round, receivers held a 33-23 advantage. This starts to put us more in line with the optimal draft construction we discussed earlier this week.
RB/WR Points By ADP 2017-2018
This image comes from Blair Andrews’ Win the Flex tool that will be released later this week. The Fantasy Douche demonstrated these trends numerous times through the years. Contrary to popular belief, WRs continue to outscore RBs relative to ADP. This scoring climate offers strong support for the ongoing WR run in a 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-Flex format like Apex.
My selection: Robby Anderson. It was almost impossible to pass on Jarvis Landry here, but I opted for an exciting talent with less target competition. Sam Darnold’s emergence could fuel Anderson to a Tyreek Hill-like breakout.4
6.01 Mike Clay – O.J. Howard
6.02 Mike Braude – Will Fuller
6.03 Denny Carter – Larry Fitzgerald
6.04 Shawn Siegele – Corey Davis
6.05 JJ Zachariason – Hunter Henry
6.06 Matt Harmon – Curtis Samuel
6.07 Sigmund Bloom – Keke Coutee
6.08 Matt Kelley – Deshaun Watson
6.09 Patrick Daugherty – Vance McDonald
6.10 Evan Silva – Evan Engram
6.11 Graham Barfield – Marvin Jones
6.12 Rich Hribar – Dede Westbrook
Round 6 featured zero RBs. At this juncture, Denny and I have yet to select a back, while Mike Braude and JJ Zachariason only have a single RB. This forces a secondary run on WRs that sees the Texans’ No. 3 receiver, the Lions’ No. 2 receiver, and the Jaguars’ No. 1 receiver all selected in the first 72 picks.
The second tier of TEs also came off the board in this stanza. It’s difficult to resist the siren song of young vets like O.J. Howard, Hunter Henry, and Evan Engram at these prices. Vance McDonald is drawing raves in Steelers camp. He’ll have to hope Donte Moncrief, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson struggle to fill the Antonio Brown-sized target crater.
My selection: Corey Davis. I considered Curtis Samuel, a Parris Campbell/Mecole Hardman clone with experience (and better collegiate production). Instead, I opted for Davis. The additions of A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries will open up this offense and help Marcus Mariota take the next step. The biggest 2019 beneficiary should still be Davis, a player who disappointed a year ago and yet retains plenty of breakout potential.
7.01 Rich Hribar – Marquez Valdes-Scantling
7.02 Graham Barfield – David Montgomery
7.03 Evan Silva – Miles Sanders
7.04 Patrick Daugherty – Sterling Shepard
7.05 Matt Kelley – Courtland Sutton
7.06 Sigmund Bloom – Darrell Henderson
7.07 Matt Harmon – Tarik Cohen
7.08 JJ Zachariason – Tevin Coleman
7.09 Shawn Siegele – Sony Michel
7.10 Denny Carter – Phillip Lindsay
7.11 Mike Braude – Kenyan Drake
7.12 Mike Clay – Emmanuel Sanders
A week ago, I wrote about Miles Sanders upside as the 2019 Nick Chubb and reminded subscribers that he was moving into the rookie RB ADP window that has delivered league-winning backs on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, a good string of practices re-energized his summer hype. He goes only a single pick after David Montgomery and a few picks before Darrell Henderson.
My selection: Sony Michel. Michel’s ADP has collapsed over the last two months, pushing him below a handful of committee backs, receiving specialty backs, and even rookie handcuffs.5 The engine of the NE offense down the stretch in 2018, Michel is working to expand his receiving acumen in camp. His risky profile – few receptions and injury concerns – is much more palatable in this range, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up as bye-week filler.
8.01 Mike Clay – Derrius Guice
8.02 Mike Braude – Lamar Miller
8.03 Denny Carter – Austin Ekeler
8.04 Shawn Siegele – Rashaad Penny
8.05 JJ Zachariason – Latavius Murray
8.06 Matt Harmon – John Brown
8.07 Sigmund Bloom – DeSean Jackson
8.08 Matt Kelley – David Njoku
8.09 Patrick Daugherty – Kyler Murray
8.10 Evan Silva – Donte Moncrief
8.11 Graham Barfield – Geronimo Allison
8.12 Rich Hribar – Jared Cook
A five-RB run got us off to a fast start in Round 8. With five RBs already, Mike Clay is attempting the strategy that paid off handsomely for him in 2016. However, including the beginning of Round 9, we’re back on a nine-pick stretch without an RB.
My selection: Rashaad Penny. I wouldn’t be surprised if Michel and Penny finish the season behind Damien Harris and Chris Carson, but it’s also easy to see a scenario where they position themselves as Round 2 picks for 2020.
9.01 Rich Hribar – Tyrell Williams
9.02 Graham Barfield – Andrew Luck
9.03 Evan Silva – Josh Gordon
9.04 Patrick Daugherty – Ronald Jones
9.05 Matt Kelley – Royce Freeman
9.06 Sigmund Bloom – Anthony Miller
9.07 Matt Harmon – Kenny Stills
9.08 JJ Zachariason – Devin Funchess
9.09 Shawn Siegele – N’Keal Harry
9.10 Denny Carter – Dion Lewis
9.11 Mike Braude – Eric Ebron
9.12 Mike Clay – James Washington
I had hoped to land either Royce Freeman or Ronald Jones for a second-year breakout trifecta, but I expected them to go off the board to Daugherty and Kelley. Both owners only had two RBs through Round 8, but their overall RB depth charts are loaded with upside (Elliott/Ingram/Jones; Gordon/Gurley, Freeman). As is the case at WR, drafters should be targeting youth with their breakout tickets.
With owners focused on RB and WR, excellent values in Andrew Luck and Eric Ebron remained, although the upside of the latter will be closely tied to the health of the former.
My selection: N’Keal Harry. I considered Harry at 7.09 before opting for back-to-back sophomore runners. In the rookie WR model, he owns a similar projection to that of Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore a year ago. They subsequently scored 209 and 163, smashing ADP as expected. Although Harry has been outplayed by UDFA Jakobi Meyers in camp, the recent reports are encouraging. First-year WR breakouts are occurring more frequently than ever, and Harry checks many of the same boxes as Michael Thomas in 2016: elite profile, target availability, high-scoring offense, top shelf QB play.
10.01 Mike Clay – D.K. Metcalf
10.02 Mike Braude – Aaron Rodgers
10.03 Denny Carter – Carlos Hyde
10.04 Shawn Siegele – Justice Hill
10.05 JJ Zachariason – Jordan Howard
10.06 Matt Harmon – Marquise Goodwin
10.07 Sigmund Bloom – Damien Harris
10.08 Matt Kelley – Tre’Quan Smith
10.09 Patrick Daugherty – Kalen Ballage
10.10 Evan Silva – Parris Campbell
10.11 Graham Barfield – DaeSean Hamilton
10.12 Rich Hribar – Golden Tate
The majority of owners start to gamble on rookies and breakout players in Round 10. Seven first- or second-year players were selected, including D.K. Metcalf, Justice Hill, Damien Harris, Tre’Quan Smith, Kalen Ballage, Parris Campbell, and DaeSean Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Denny grabs 2017’s RB8, now playing for Andy Reid and Kansas City (Carlos Hyde), while JJ lands Jordan Howard, a RB who has averaged over 200 points during his three-year career and now starts for the high-powered Eagles. Their decisions to go WR-heavy early have been vindicated by the RB talent subsequently pushed down the board.
My selection: Justice Hill. The rookie change-of-pace back looks like a reach compared to the RBs who sandwich him, but Hill is already making waves in Ravens camp. Baltimore’s first explosive runner since the demise of Ray Rice, he made my list of the 8 Most Explosive Breather Backs. In an extreme upside scenario, he’ll eventually split the difference between Darren Sproles and Jamaal Charles. Hill is simply too appealing in this range, even if the big fantasy contribution is more likely to come in 2020.
11.01 Rich Hribar – Jaylen Samuels
11.02 Graham Barfield – Mark Andrews
11.03 Evan Silva – Matt Breida
11.04 Patrick Daugherty – Michael Gallup
11.05 Matt Kelley – Justin Jackson
11.06 Sigmund Bloom – Carson Wentz
11.07 Matt Harmon – Baker Mayfield
11.08 JJ Zachariason – Jamison Crowder
11.09 Shawn Siegele – Nyheim Hines
11.10 Denny Carter – Adrian Peterson
11.11 Mike Braude – LeSean McCoy
11.12 Mike Clay – Matt Ryan
In a startup draft, I would have traded future picks for more selections in this round. Matt Breida is one of the best combinations of athleticism and production in the entire NFL, while Justin Jackson looks like a crazy chimera fashioned from pieces of Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, and James Conner.
My selection: Nyheim Hines. Despite a rookie season that far exceeded expectations, Hines’ dynasty ADP has only rebounded to 2018 offseason exuberance levels. That contrast provides a window into current perception across formats.
Hines is 2019’s best bet to make the Tarik Cohen or James White jump. With a locked-in receiving role and a thin overall depth chart, the second-year runner is being drafted at his floor.
12.01 Mike Clay – Marquise Brown
12.02 Mike Braude – Darwin Thompson
12.03 Denny Carter – Ito Smith
12.04 Shawn Siegele – Austin Hooper
12.05 JJ Zachariason – Peyton Barber
12.06 Matt Harmon – Jerick McKinnon
12.07 Sigmund Bloom – Dallas Goedert
12.08 Matt Kelley – Chase Edmonds
12.09 Patrick Daugherty – Antonio Callaway
12.10 Evan Silva – Deebo Samuel
12.11 Graham Barfield – Bears Defense
12.12 Rich Hribar – Devin Singletary
Round 12 featured six more potentially interesting Zero RB candidates in Darwin Thompson, Ito Smith, Peyton Barber, Jerick McKinnon, Chase Edmonds, and Devin Singletary. Matt Wispe explains why Smith is one of our priority targets, and I would have selected him if not for the impression Brian Hill is making in training camp. The four backs selected after my pick at 12.04 were Round 13 targets, although I didn’t expect Barber to have lasted even as long as he did. He’s another value pick for JJ, who has cobbled together a deep RB roster despite avoiding the position early.
My selection: Austin Hooper. With WR picked over, I needed to look elsewhere to fortify my Flex options. Grabbing last year’s TE5 gives me redundancy in the case of a Kittle injury, reduces the TE pool for those owners with a weak TE1, and provides an inexpensive way to gain exposure to the high-powered Falcons passing offense.
13.01 Rich Hribar – Mecole Hardman
13.02 Graham Barfield – Jordan Reed
13.03 Evan Silva
13.04 Patrick Daugherty
13.05 Matt Kelley
13.06 Sigmund Bloom
13.07 Matt Harmon
13.08 JJ Zachariason
13.09 Shawn Siegele
13.10 Denny Carter
13.11 Mike Braude
13.12 Mike Clay
14.01 Mike Clay
14.02 Mike Braude
14.03 Denny Carter
14.04 Shawn Siegele
14.05 JJ Zachariason
14.06 Matt Harmon
14.07 Sigmund Bloom
14.08 Matt Kelley
14.09 Patrick Daugherty
14.10 Evan Silva
14.11 Graham Barfield
14.12 Rich Hribar
15.01 Rich Hribar
15.02 Graham Barfield
15.03 Evan Silva
15.04 Patrick Daugherty
15.05 Matt Kelley
15.06 Sigmund Bloom
15.07 Matt Harmon
15.08 JJ Zachariason
15.09 Shawn Siegele
15.10 Denny Carter
15.11 Mike Braude
15.12 Mike Clay
16.01 Mike Clay
16.02 Mike Braude
16.03 Denny Carter
16.04 Shawn Siegele
16.05 JJ Zachariason
16.06 Matt Harmon
16.07 Sigmund Bloom
16.08 Matt Kelley
16.09 Patrick Daugherty
16.10 Evan Silva
16.11 Graham Barfield
16.12 Rich Hribar
17.01 Rich Hribar
17.02 Graham Barfield
17.03 Evan Silva
17.04 Patrick Daugherty
17.05 Matt Kelley
17.06 Sigmund Bloom
17.07 Matt Harmon
17.08 JJ Zachariason
17.09 Shawn Siegele
17.10 Denny Carter
17.11 Mike Braude
17.12 Mike Clay
18.01 Mike Clay
18.02 Mike Braude
18.03 Denny Carter
18.04 Shawn Siegele
18.05 JJ Zachariason
18.06 Matt Harmon
18.07 Sigmund Bloom
18.08 Matt Kelley
18.09 Patrick Daugherty
18.10 Evan Silva
18.11 Graham Barfield
18.12 Rich Hribar
Image Credit: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Saquon Barkley.
- Denny never picks a QB during the Apex draft itself, but he provided his priority best ball QB picks in a guest column this spring. (back)
- Latavius Murray will siphon some touches to keep Kamara fresh, but he shouldn’t be the same drain. (back)
- While it’s certainly a nice problem to have, I don’t need to block my breakout players with extra bodies at RB and WR. It’s easy to lose track of the importance of the starting lineup. (back)
- Anderson was a second-year breakout player in 2017. Players from that cohort go on to elite NFL careers. Anderson’s down 2018 may offer the last buying window for a while. (back)
- I’m mostly kidding about that. Henderson should certainly have standalone value. (back)