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Who Is the No. 1 Overall Pick in Fantasy Football for 2019?

Let’s get this out of the way early, about two months before a lot of people even have their drafts. Even the most fair-weather fantasy football owner or someone who does not actually play the game may ask this question. If they hear you talking about fantasy football, they might simply ask you this if they are a sports fan anyhow. Who is the No. 1 pick this year?

That’s usually a question that ultimately only applies to one team in your league. Only one person will have the first overall choice if it’s a seasonal, snake draft. But it’s still an electric topic because that guy who comes off the board before all others is going to be the most coveted player. He’s the player who everyone should want, but only one person can have him.

However, more importantly, aside from the glamour and pride of having the first choice, who goes first will affect the next two draft results. This season, there is a clear “Big Three” at the top of the draft board. Elite running backs are the most sought-after players in fantasy and there are three who are all deserving of being the No. 1 overall choice in a PPR format.

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The Candidates

Consensus Average Draft Positions have Saquon Barkley being taken No. 1 overall, with Christian McCaffrey second and Ezekiel Elliott third. In the high stakes world of the Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC), Elliott is being taken second and McCaffrey third. But any way you shake it out, or with any ADPs you look at, those three are clearly the “Big Three” in Fantasy Football.

Barkley is the unanimous top pick on any platform you view after finishing second to Patrick Mahomes in PPR scoring through 17 weeks with 385.8 PPR points. McCaffrey was right there with Barkley at 385.5. Elliott was 11th with 329.2.

But looking at overall scoring after 17 weeks doesn’t reflect the real Fantasy picture of who were the top scorers. Elliott did not play in Week 17 as Dallas preserved him for the playoffs. After 16 true weeks of Fantasy play in most leagues, McCaffrey was second behind Mahomes at 380.5 points, Barkley was fourth with 361.6 and Elliott remained third of this group with his 329.2.

If you ask this Fantasy analyst, I am leaning to McCaffrey at No. 1 overall early. I see his role and production as possibly being the most stable. He is going to continue to carry a massive load in his team’s offense. Nothing has really changed around him in a significant way this offseason, and there are no apparent concerns about anything off the field with him.

Barkley is a superstar generational talent, but the New York offense has made some major moves to potentially alter his outlook. Elliott is coming off his best season as a pass-catcher, but he simply does not have McCaffrey’s upside in that department. Plus, there is always a minor concern that off-field issues could lurk or strike at any time with Elliott.

The only real concern for McCaffrey may be Cam Newton’s shoulder, but all reports on his progress so far are positive, and with some sarcasm inserted here, how much arm strength does he really need to find McCaffrey on flat or short passes and let him do so much of the work like he did last year? We all know Newton was not himself during the second half of the schedule, yet McCaffrey still caught 58 of his 107 passes during that span.

McCaffrey played 93 percent of the snaps last season, and there has been some public talk from the Panthers that they would like to reduce his reps some to preserve him more for an extensive career. But he still lacks a prominent backup that can truly be a change of pace guy that Carolina would ideally like to be on the field when McCaffrey is out. Realistically, McCaffrey will continue to be a workhorse, even if there is the ever-so-slightest regression in his overall numbers.

McCaffrey is also efficient, as he averaged five yards per carry last season, and his 861 receiving yards were by far the most for any RB in 2018, as Barkley was fourth with 721. Elliott had 567. So even if McCaffrey comes back closer to the pack this year receiving yardage wise, he still to regress quite a bit to be on the level of other top receiving RBs.

The Carolina offense, from a personnel perspective, is also mostly unchanged. That is not the case with Barkley. The loss of Odell Beckham Jr. automatically means Barkley gains much more defensive attention. Opponents will be geared up to key on him and let the Giants try to beat them with noodle-armed Eli Manning or rookie Daniel Jones. Of course, stopping Barkley completely is easier schemed than done. Let’s remember that when opponents stacked their fronts against Adrian Peterson in his prime, he still had monster seasons. Barkley is also more versatile than Peterson was. So he should still be worthy of the Top 3 selection. But a world without OBJ could be a slightly tougher environment to exist in. Also, there could be fewer TD opportunities for Barkley if the offense sputters more often without Beckham.

Elliott had the most rushing yards of the three RBs we are discussing here. But he also had the least combined TDs (nine, Barkley had 15, McCaffrey 13). Plus, there are always concerns about his off-field behavior, even though the Cowboys are reportedly confident he will not face any discipline for a recent incident in Las Vegas. The receiving game should also be improved in Dallas this year, with a full season from Amari Cooper, an expected rise of Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb as a third target. Dallas may not have to lean quite as heavily on Elliott as they did in previous seasons, and he could be challenged to catch 70 balls again.


The Verdict

Barkley does concern me the most from on-field perspectives, though, so I rank him third. But we are splitting Fantasy hairs here, and all three of these superstar RBs are very worthy of the No. 1 pick for me without a vehement argument against any of them.

But if I am in the spotlight position of picking first in any draft, McCaffrey will be my choice. I have more minor concerns about Elliott and Barkley than with him. In any of the three cases, though, you are lucky to be in a spot to acquire a  luxury fantasy item. I will simply take the Porsche over the Rolls Royce or Bentley.

More Fantasy Football Analysis

Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.

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