When going into the first round of your draft, you can draft the cornerstone of your fantasy football team. While this pick does not guarantee your success in your league, it establishes how you will be constructing your roster throughout the rest of the draft. I will be going pick by pick and saying who I would prefer to draft at each spot for a point per reception (PPR) league. To note if a player I would draft at an earlier pick falls, I would draft them over who I suggest in this article. For example, if you have a cowboys fan who takes Ezekial Elliot at number 1, I would still be drafting Christian McCaffery at the number 2 spot.
Number 1 Pick: Christian McCaffery (CAR (RB))
This is the easiest pick in fantasy drafts. McCaffery should be number 1 overall in any format. He provides a concrete floor due to his high rushing volume and work in the passing game. He has shown us how dominant he is, and I fully expect him to continue his strong performances this year.
Number 2 Pick: Saquon Barkley (NYG (RB))
Saquon Barkley is my number 2 pick in fantasy drafts this year. Last year Barkley struggled through his injury and disappointed in fantasy. However, he is still one of the most talented back in football and will be the bell cow back for the Giants again this year. When he was finally healthy towards the end of last year, Barkley went back to putting up RB1 numbers, and he should be a consistent RB1 for your fantasy team this year.
Number 3 Pick: Alvin Kamara (NO (RB))
In PPR leagues, Alvin Kamara is my preferred pick at number 3 overall. Kamara has shown us unbelievable efficiency throughout his career. He does not need 20 plus touches per game to be a vital fantasy asset for your team. Kamara gets a boost over Elliot in my draft because it is a PPR league. Kamara is a significant part of the Saints passing game and will see plenty of targets each week on top of his rushing attempts, which gives him a solid floor in fantasy.
Number 4 Pick: Ezekiel Elliot (DAL (RB))
Elliot is the last of the top tier running backs in fantasy football. These first four backs are the unquestioned bell cow backs on their team. They represent the running backs with the least risk due to the many touches they will get each week. These touches give them a high fantasy floor, but their talent is what makes them elite options at the position. Elliot is my least favorite of the four due to the number of weapons on the Cowboys this year, taking a few touches away from Elliot. I do not believe it will affect him significantly, but it does push him to the last of the top 4 for me.
Number 5 Pick: Clyde Edwards-Hellaire (KC (RB))
This may be a surprising suggestion for you to see; if you are looking at rankings, you probably expected to see Michael Thomas of Dalvin Cook at this position, but I would take Edwards-Hellaire. CEH is perhaps the pick that presents the most risk in the first round and provides some of the most significant upside. CEH is becoming the top running back in one of the elite offenses in the NFL. Andy Reid has consistently shown that he can get the most out of young athletic running backs. We have seen Reid turn Brian Westbrooke, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, and Kareem Hunt all top tier running backs for fantasy football. CEH is an extremely talented rookie who can run between the tackles and will be a great outlet out of the backfield for Mahomes. If you want the upside potential of THE RB1 overall, CEH provides that while still providing a concrete floor since he will be the team's primary ball carrier.
Number 6 Pick: Dalvin Cook (Min (RB))
Cook showed us last year that he can be healthy for the majority of the year. He has all the talent to be an elite running back and is in a run-heavy offense. Cook also has shown an ability to be a good option out of the backfield. The main reason Cook falls to 6 for me is due to his contract situation. Cook is entering the last year of his rookie deal and has brought up the idea of holding out. While he has been at camp, there can be a point this year where Cook wants to preserve his health to make it to his next contract. I still believe Cook brings a solid floor every game, but he does not have as much upside as the other five running backs going ahead of him.
Number 7 Pick: Michael Thomas (NO (WR))
I fully expect Michael Thomas to be gone at this point in most drafts. If we were drafting purely off talent, Thomas would be much higher on my draft preference. However, I wouldn't say I like drafting a WR early even in a PPR league. Drafting a wide receiver in the top 5 picks means your roster construction could be challenging. You will be looking at guys like Aaron Jones for your RB1. If you can grab Thomas at this point, you should be able to draft a back end RB1 in round 2 like Josh Jacobs or Nick Chubb. While Thomas will finish as the top WR again in fantasy, I would instead secure a top running back for my team. He is the primary target for Brees and will continually be heavily targeted in the offense.
Number 8 Pick: Julio Jones (ATL (WR))
Once again, in the back half of the first round is where I become comfortable taking WR since you can still get a solid RB1 in the second round. Julio Jones has been a consistent top fantasy option for years. The Falcons are the favorites to lead the league in passing again, and Jones will be the primary passing option for the team. He does not need to score touchdowns either to be an elite receiving option due to the high amount of receptions and yards he consistently puts up year in and year out.
Number 9 Pick: Kenyan Drake (ARI (RB))
When Kenyan Drake arrived in Arizona last year, he showed us that he could be a solid RB1 for fantasy. Now he gets a whole year as the starting running back. The Cardinals will continue to be a high pace offense and will continue to have a mediocre defense. This means Drake will see all the touches he can handle on the ground and through the air. Having a large workload gives Drake that high floor we are looking for in a first-round running back. Drake comes with a high ceiling as well due to his dynamic ability out of the backfield.
Number 10 Pick: Derrick Henry (TEN (RB))
Derrick Henry may be one of the safest picks in fantasy football this year. He will get 20 plus rushes each week, and we have seen how explosive of a runner he is. What holds Henry back in PPR leagues, in particular, is his lack of work in the passing game. Henry is a good receiver out of the backfield, but he is not used often. This limits how high his ceiling is in PPR leagues in particular.
Number 11 Pick: Miles Sanders (PHI (RB))
Miles Sanders has all the talent to be an elite running back in the NFL if he is allowed to be a bell cow. Doug Pederson has not used a bell-cow back in his time as head coach, but he has not had a back like Sanders before. Sanders showed the ability to be an elusive back between the tackles and a strong receiver out of the backfield. Boston Scott is on the team as the backup running back but should only serve as a receiving option as long as Sanders is healthy. The Eagles will be a potent offense again this year, and Sanders should see plenty of touches all over the field. If Sanders is given the workhorse role, he could finish as a top 5 back. However, if he is in a 70-30 committee with Scott, he can still easily finish as a top ten back due to his situation.
Number 12 Pick: Joe Mixon (CIN (RB))
Joe Mixon is another workhouse running back who will be involved heavily in the offense. He is a talented running back and receiver. He started to be used more in the passing game towards the end of last year, and we should see him used more this year with rookie Joe Burrow under center. Mixon would be higher in the first round for me, but recently we got the news that Mixon was missing training camp due to some migraine issues. This may not seem like a significant injury, but we have seen in the past how migraines can affect an NFL player. Percy Harvin had a promising career before consistent migraines derailed his career. While Mixon's migraines may not be as big of an issue, it is enough of a worry for me to push him down to the end of the first round for my draft preferences.