The beginner’s guide to 2019 fantasy football


David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) looks to throw downfield against the Carolina Panthers in the second half on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

By Michael Elesinmogun, for the Pitt News

As the NFL season gets ready to begin on Thursday, fans are starting to put their fantasy football teams together. It’s a challenging process that brings plenty of uncertainty, leaving you to make educated guesses as you draft. To help with this drafting process, here are five dos and don’ts that will help prepare you for draft day — along with the biggest sleeper at every position that you may want to keep your eyes on.

  1. if you want to be competitive, make sure you do some type of research before you start your league. It doesn’t have to be hours on end, but looking at articles and reading some stats from last year won’t hurt.
  2. Don’t draft a player in the first round who is not currently in training camp. Among the most notable of training camp absences this year were Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon. It’s enticing to see Zeke there at your No. 8 pick but stay away! If it’s anything like Le’Veon Bell’s holdout last year, these things can drag out, and you want your first rounder to be a player that produces from start to finish.
  3. Find a rookie that you think will produce early on. It’s always interesting to see where rookie players get drafted because it can be hit or miss. Last year, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley was clearly going to be a great fantasy player and a productive rookie, but he is exceptional among players who are harder to predict. Finding a rookie you believe in is a gamble, but the potential payoff is worth it. This season, I am super high on Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs.
  4. It’s okay to draft a defense early. Most drafters try to fill their position players before they decide on a defense or kicker. This simple mistake can be crucial — a bad defense can be devastating. If a player is struggling, he can be benched. While you won’t gain any points from him sitting, you won’t lose any from a poor performance. Defenses, on the other hand, are drafted as the entire unit. They have to go out every series regardless of performance and can lose points that cost you a victory.
  5. And finally, sticking with defenses — draft two defenses and play the matchup. Last year we saw a strong Los Angeles Rams defense give up 51 points to the Kansas City Chiefs. In a week, when you know your defense won’t be able to hang with an elite offense, you can switch to your backup defensive team for a more favorable matchup that week.

2019’s Biggest Sleepers

Quarterback: Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) 

Surprisingly, Wilson is ranked the ninthbest quarterback by ESPN fantasy football, a far cry from his No. 1 ranking in 2017. Wilson took a step back in 2018, but the Seahawks drafted three wide receivers in 2019, so he’ll have some new weapons around him. If you value other positions like running back over quarterback and want to draft them first, Wilson should be available in the third or fourth round.

Running Back: Joe Mixon (Cincinnati Bengals)

After a rookie season where Mixon established himself as the starting running back for Cincinnati, look for an increase in his production early in the season. As AJ Green recovers from injury the Bengals will be featuring their running backs more.

Wide Receiver: Mike Williams (Los Angeles Chargers)

Tyrell Williams’ departure from the Chargers left the second wide receiver hole behind Keenan Allen open. Melvin Gordon’s holdout also means quarterback Phillip Rivers could be looking to pass more.

Tight End: TJ Hockenson (Detroit Lions)

This should not be a position you wait until later rounds to draft, but if you do find yourself in a sticky situation, look for rookie TJ Hockenson. In college, Hockenson was the do-it-all man for the Iowa Hawkeyes, but he will make his money in goal line situations for the Lions. Hockenson’s 6-foot-5 frame will help him make one-on-one fade catches in the endzone.

FLEX: Brandin Cooks (Los Angeles Rams)

Cooks is an explosive receiver in Ram’s head coach Sean McVay’s offense. Any given week, he has the ability to be your top-producing wide receiver but because of the depth at his position, he’ll probably fit well as a flex player if you can get him.

Defense/Special Teams: Washington Redskins

A middling defense last year, the Redskins upgraded by drafting first-rounder Montez Sweat from Mississippi State and signing Landon Collins, an all-pro player formerly of the New York Giants. The interior line has the potential to be a top five unit in the NFL. Getting the Redskins defense provides an excellent fail-safe for when your primary defense is stuck with a bad matchup.

Kicker: Austin Seibert (Cleveland Browns)

The Browns offense is going to be lethal. Conversely, Austin Seibert will be kicking a lot of field goals and extra points. He is a rookie, which is always a cause for concern but he gave a strong showing in the preseason and kicked in big situations while in college at Oklahoma, so Seibert should be just fine under the spotlight.