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The best and worst fantasy football picks in Rounds 1-3

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Who to draft or avoid in the first three rounds of fantasy football drafts.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Of all the draft strategies employed to win your league, we’ve all been in the position of debating upside vs consistency when making a selection. Do we want the guy who can flash and give us a week-winning 30+ point game, or do we want the guy who gives us that safe floor every week so we’re always in contention? I admit I generally fall into the latter but being able to recognize and take advantage of those players whose upside is hard to resist, can make the difference week to week.

I’ve taken the current top 120 players by ADP at FantasyPros.com and split them into 10 rounds of 12. From there I’ve identified the player in each round that offers the most upside at their current ADP, the player who offers the safest floor, and finally the guy who I’m avoiding at all costs. We’re starting with Rounds 1-3 and will pick up the next three rounds in another article later this week.

Round 1

Boom – Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

I start with the lowest of low-hanging fruit, selecting the most explosive player in the league, capable of scoring from anywhere and just as effective as a pass catcher as he is as a running back. Now with Barkley, you clearly need to be picking within the first three or four picks to be able to snag him but there is no reason why he can’t take on and outscore Christian McCaffrey in 2020, especially as the Giants are likely to need to be a high-scoring offense to counteract what looks like one of the league’s worst defenses on paper.

Safety First – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Zeke is quite simply one of the most consistent fantasy players of all time. In 56 career games, he averages 21 PPR points per game, with at least 15 points in 46 of them (83%), better than both Saquon Barkley (76%) and Christian McCaffrey (69%). The ultimate floor player and a no-brainer pick if you get to draft in the top five spots.

Bust – Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

If ever a player was due some regression its Michael Thomas. His 2019 numbers were just insane and like his twitter handle says, you can’t guard Mike, especially in the Superdome. With the Saints adding Emmanuel Sanders to a receiving corps that desperately needed another option, plus the advancing age of Drew Brees, it’s just unlikely Thomas will get as many looks in 2020. First round pick? Absolutely. But just don’t expect the same fireworks as we saw last season.

NFL: DEC 29 Eagles at Giants Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round 2

Boom – Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Sanders broke out over the second half of 2019 and averaged 18.8 points from Weeks 11 to 16 to finish as the RB7 over that period. Now that Sanders enters year two as the starter for Eagles, expect to see him post those numbers on a regular basis and be a top-10 running back in 2020.

Safety First – Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

This is another potential boom if Matthew Stafford comes back in 2020 playing as he did before his injury. Golladay is the most consistent of any of the current top-25 wider receivers, with the lowest standard deviation of fantasy scores over the last three years and is a super solid pick with upside in Round 2. If he can average 14 points per game with Jeff Driskel and David Blough at quarterback, then a full year with Stafford could be lights out.

Bust – Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

Not a popular opinion but I don’t think Nick Chubb is even the best running back on his team. With another new regime in Cleveland, don’t believe Chubb is automatically the lead back as Kareem Hunt has better all-round skills than Chubb, and is a closer match to the man Kevin Stefanski worked with in Minnesota in Dalvin Cook. Even if their workload is more shared, that’s enough to drop Chubb out of the top 15 running backs and out of a Round 2 ADP. I’d rather grab Hunt in Round 7 and take my chances on the upside.

NFL: DEC 29 Titans at Texans Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Round 3

Boom – A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

No rookie boomed more than A.J. Brown over the fantasy run-in last season. Brown finished as the WR3 from Weeks 11 to 16 with 21.1 points per game. He did this with just 21 catches, fewest of any of the top 20 receivers over that period, but turned those grabs into 481 yards and 4 touchdowns. Did I mention he’s a beast in the backfield too, with 2 rushes for a further 61 yards and another touchdown. With the ball in his hands he’s a monster after the catch and in Round 3, I’m drafting Brown every time.

Safety First – Melvin Gordon, RB, Denver Broncos

There should be nothing safe about a running back earning his second contract on a new team, but I just have different feelings about Melvin Gordon in Denver. Despite his hold out and losing out on touches to Austin Ekeler, Gordon still managed 14.5 PPR points per game in 2019 and over the past three years combined, he averages over 18 points per game. In Denver I project he will get back close to his average and take the lead role in one of the up and coming offenses in the AFC in 2020.

Bust – Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Now I must admit, when I call Austin Ekeler a bust in 2020, it’s only that I can see regression on the cards and a lesser fantasy impact in 2020. His 92 catches, near 1000 yard receiving yards, and eight receiving touchdowns from last year are bound to take a hit with Philip Rivers now in Indianapolis, and I just cannot see Tyrod Taylor and/or Justin Herbert targeting Ekeler as often.