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Maximum Firepower: Top Targets in Each of the First 4 Rounds

As you prep for your 2019 fantasy football draft, you’ll need a shortlist of “your guys” for the first few rounds to serve as foundation players for your squad. So who should you start your fantasy draft off with?

Fantasy seasons are not won and lost on draft day, but a strong draft will obviously go a long way in securing you a championship — and the first few rounds should provide your team with the most possible firepower.

Here’s a list of my favorite player in each of the first four rounds, based on ADP.1

First Round: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

McCaffrey is a bell-cow running back. Last season, no RB played a higher percentage of their team’s snaps than McCaffrey (98.6%)2, and McCaffrey’s 35% opportunity market share ranked fourth-best among all running backs.3

mccaffrey-snaps-2018

You’ll likely have to own one of the first few picks of the draft to snag McCaffrey, but if you do, you can draft him with confidence. You’ll be happy to start your fantasy draft with him.

McCaffrey is the perfect fit for a modified Zero RB draft in 2019, which means taking a bell-cow back in the first round followed by WRs over the next few rounds.

Speaking of which …

Second Round: Odell Beckham, WR, Cleveland Browns

OBJ deserves to be a first-round pick, and I think the only reason he’s going in the second round is that there are so many other good players who deserve to be first-round picks.

Beckham ranked first in opportunity market share among WRs with the Giants in 2018, and while he must contend with Jarvis Landry for targets in 2019, it’s not like the Giants didn’t have other playmakers last year.4odell-beckham-jr-opportunity-marketshare

Using our new Range of Outcomes app, we also see that Beckham projects to produce at least double-digit fantasy points every week. Not even consensus No.1. fantasy WR DeAndre Hopkins‘ Range of Outcomes gives you this floor.

Third Round: Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders

As of this writing, the Antonio Brown helmet saga wears on, and it has taken a serious toll on his ADP:

Antonio Brown 2019 adp

With the threat of retirement (and feet that definitely do no look healthy), the risk associated with Brown has caused him to slip into the third round.

Yet despite these risks, coupled with the objectively fantasy-unfriendly move from Ben Roethlisberger to Derek Carr, this is still Antonio Brown we’re talking about. Our current projections have him slotted for 151 targets (fifth-most among WRs), 90 receptions, 1,100-plus yards, and nine touchdowns, making him a solid tail-end WR1 you can snag on the cheap.

And let’s not forget that Carr has been good enough to buoy not one, but two solid fantasy WRs in the past. In 2015 and 2016, both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree topped 900 receiving yards. The move to Oakland is not a death knell for Brown.

Fourth Round: David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears

You wouldn’t exactly be buying low on Montgomery (see his ADP chart below), but after seeing him do stuff like this in the preseason, it’s hard not to get excited — even though his situation looked somewhat dicey early this summer.

David Montgomery fantasy football adp

Montgomery is turning into a favorite among fantasy analysts because he’s primed for the lion’s share of carries in Chicago and proved himself an adequate receiver in college, improving his reception total each season. And the hype is only growing with head coach Matt Nagy saying the team gave pass-catching specialist Tarik Cohen “too much” work last season.

Montgomery has a legitimate shot of finishing the season as a top-10 fantasy RB, and he only costs you a fourth-round pick.

Start your fantasy draft by finding value

You’re unlikely to start your fantasy draft with all four of these players, but they are definitely worth keeping an eye on in case they start to slide down draft boards. McCaffrey is the safest elite running back in 2019, and scooping up a guaranteed workhorse is extremely valuable in fantasy.

Meanwhile, elite WRs like Beckham and Brown are starting with new teams in 2019, a fact that has impacted their fantasy value. And then there are players like Montgomery, a currently-unknown player5 that is in prime position to be a household name by the end of September.

If you have some idea of what you’re doing on fantasy draft day, it’s honestly pretty hard to mess up a pick in the first few rounds. But as you can see above, I like to try to find value in these rounds by searching for players that I believe should be going a round sooner than they are.

Image Credit: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Christian McCaffrey.

  1. You may not be able to draft all these players unless you’re in an auction league. But if any of these players fell to me in these respective rounds, I’d pounce.  (back)
  2. Nobody was even close to McCaffrey in snap share, with the next-closest — Ezekiel Elliott — at 93.6%  (back)
  3. Behind Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, and David Johnson.  (back)
  4. Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram are both top-five fantasy players at their respective positions.  (back)
  5. Outside of the hardcore fantasy community.  (back)

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