Your fantasy football league might not be won or lost in the first round, but you can’t exactly afford to screw it up.
Missing on your first selection can set your draft back, and leave you with a not-so-sturdy foundation heading into the season. You don’t want to reach and pick someone you could have drafted in the later rounds, nor do you want to select someone with significant red flags.
With those considerations in mind, here are the players you should avoid selecting with your first-round pick in your fantasy football draft.
Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon
If there are three words you remember from this piece, those should be: Avoid. The. Holdouts.
As of this writing, neither Elliott nor Gordon have reported to their respective teams’ training camps. Any Le’Veon Bell fantasy owner -- including this writer -- can tell you firsthand how wasting a high pick on a player in an uncertain contract situation can torpedo a season. Season-long holdouts no longer are unprecedented, and must be considered when contemplating picking one of the two.
If Elliott and Gordon were in camp with the Cowboys and Chargers, respectively, you wouldn’t draw any side eyes drafting either player in the first round. Elliott would be much more of a lock than Gordon, but you could make a case for either at the very least.
If you’re thinking about taking one of them in the first round, steer clear until they’re in camp.
Your quarterback undoubtedly will end up being your highest scorer, but picking one can wait until the second or third round (at the earliest).
The skill positions are the ones to focus on in the first round, especially given the amount of talent available. Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey and David Johnson are primed for big years, and you’d be better off taking a flyer on Bell in the back-end of the first round than reaching for, say, Patrick Mahomes with your first pick.
The drop-off between the first and second tier of quarterbacks isn’t as large as it is at running back or wide receiver, so you really want to make sure you nail that first pick. Missing at one of the skill positions is going to hurt more than missing at QB.
There’s a void to be filled out wide in Pittsburgh after the Steelers traded novice painter/star receiver Antonio Brown to the Raiders in the offseason. Smith-Schuster stands to benefit, as he already was one of the better receivers in fantasy football playing with Brown and should be in line for more targets without him.
The next-gen Steelers are going to air it out as long as Ben Roethlisberger is quarterback, but Roethlisberger turned 37 in March and is coming off of the worst year of his career in terms of yards-per-completion. With one fewer option for Roethlisberger to throw to, Smith-Schuster is going to receive a lot of attention from opposing defenses.
Smith-Schuster is ready for a bigger role in his third NFL season, and would be a great pick early in the second round. You’ll have surer No. 1 options at receiver in the first, though.
Now that Rob Gronkowski has retired from the NFL in order to party poolside/pursue an acting-and-wrestling career/do Gronk Things, Kelce has taken the reigns as Tight End Worthy Of First-Round Consideration.
49ers tight end George Kittle just set the single-season receiving-yards record for the position, but his Chiefs counterpart has the benefit of catching passes from Mahomes. That understandably makes him tempting in the back end of the first round, but you’ll be better off waiting.
With so many strong running backs and a handful of dominant receivers to choose from in the first round, the previously-mentioned drop-off at those positions means you should not wait. Go ahead and make Kelce your second pick, especially if your second comes shortly after your first.
Your favorite player from your favorite team
The temptation is there. You’re sitting with your friends, wearing the jersey of your favorite player on your hometown team, and you have to make sure you pick him. You wouldn’t be a good fan otherwise, right?
No, you would. If your favorite player feels like a reach in the first round, they probably are! Unless that player is one of the top running backs, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., DaVante Adams or Julio Jones, they surely will be available after the first round.
This rule also applies if you’ve already named your team after a player. You don’t have to draft Jimmy Garoppolo with the fifth overall pick just because your pre-draft team name is “Jimmy GQ.”
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