Pick-a-Player: Julio Jones, Travis Kelce, or Patrick Mahomes

The Footballguys staff, Shark Pool, and Facebook answer a dilemma at the 2.04 spot

The premise of a Pick-a-Player question is as follows:

  • Three comparable players are available.
  • The draft is at a stage where these players are usually drafted.
  • You can take one of them or pass on all three for someone else.

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It's the 2.04 pick in a standard 12-team, non-PPR draft. You picked a running back in the first round, and the players listed below are off the board. Would you select Julio Jones, Travis Kelce, or Patrick Mahomes II? Or would you pass on all three and take someone else?

The Results

And the winner is -- yes! Wait -- yes?. See the percentages below.

Group
Percentage Picking...
Jones
Kelce
Mahomes
None of the Three
Footballguys Staff
10.5%
57.9%
10.5%
21.1%
Footballguys Shark Pool
52.9%
26.5%
17.6%
2.9%
Footballguys Facebook
10.0%
26.7%
43.3%
20.0%

Comments from the Staff

Jason Wood

This is the easiest discussion we've had so far. It's Travis Kelce. While Mahomes has the potential to run away with his position, we all thought that last year and it didn't happen. Yet, Kelce need only stay healthy to be a virtual lock for a decided positional advantage most weeks. Kelce may not finish TE1, but if he falls short it'll still be so far ahead of what half of your league is starting at the position you'll be happy to have him.

I'm down a bit on Julio Jones this year, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's his age. Maybe it's his lack of touchdowns. Maybe it's an unabated excitement for Calvin Ridley. Either way, I'm passing on Jones at ADP every draft, it seems.

Mahomes is awesome, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him return to 45-50 touchdowns and 5,000+ yards this year. So while I don't think it's crazy to target him that high, I think the depth at the position is so massive it's harder to buy into a weekly statistical advantage unless he has another all-timer season.

Chad Parsons

This is a collection of non-optimal options for my typical drafting style as an early quarterback is reserved for premium formats in most cases on my board. Also, wide receiver is the deepest I can recall in terms of appealing mid-round options. Finally, an early tight end is another 'typically reserved for a premium format, most likely start-2TE mandatory' situation. The non-PPR designation limits some of the appeal of Julio Jones with his track record of a high-yardage and lower touchdowns in his career and a likely more viable Atlanta run game with Todd Gurley. The biggest difference between going early quarterback or tight end is to compare how appealing the later options are at each position. In this case, the drove of quarterbacks throughout are superior to the tight ends with true top-5 upside, leaving Travis Kelce as the best option here.

Justin Howe

There's not a chance I'm taking Mahomes, nor even Lamar Jackson, whom I rank ahead of him at the quarterback spot. Like Chad, I'm not looking at QBs until at least Round 8 or 9. Mahomes would have to melt the earth again, as he did in 2018, to bring home this kind of value - a pretty-good stat line just won't do it. And while he's positioned better to than anyone to erupt, there are at least 6-8 middle-round options with very similar week-to-week ceilings and floors. The value that comes with that eight-round weight is much more tangible than the hopes Mahomes goes 5,000-50 again.

So it's between Jones and Kelce, and I have little doubt I'd take Kelce. Call it 8 times out of 10. Jones is a rock-solid WR1, but it's hard to nudge him into the top non-Michael Thomas tier of wideouts. There's just not that dynamite upside when we consider his allergy to touchdowns - he'll likely never blow up with a 10-touchdown season. Kelce, on the other hand, projects to such a jump from the next few tiers of tight ends that the value is unshakable here. Both should flirt with 90-95 catches and 6-8 touchdowns, and that means so much more at a thin tight end position than it does at wideout.

Andy Hicks

This situation is an excellent look into the tough decisions we all face during a draft. With the players off the board, a lot would depend on who my first selection was and the exact scoring system for quarterbacks. Julio Jones would not be my first choice at wide receiver, as already outlined by others due to the lack of touchdowns and his advancing age. I would be considering the Tampa Bay duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin instead. Which one will Brady look to as his go-to guy? At running back, I would not want Kenyan Drake or David Johnson here. The non-PPR format kills their value. Both the top tight ends in Travis Kelce and George Kittle have issues. With Kelce, I am not a fan of using top picks on guys at his position over 30. Everything should be fine, but I’m wary. George Kittle lacks touchdowns. That leaves Patrick Mahomes II as a guy I might be tempted to go for here, depending on my confidence at the wide receiver and tight end options in rounds three and four. The ultimate choice would be between Evans, Mahomes, and Kelce though. For the sake of making a decision, I will take Mahomes.

Bob Henry

Despite the non-PPR scoring, I'm going with D - None of the above - because I have Kenyan Drake clearly ahead of all three options. The non-PPR scoring doesn't change much for my decision when considering Drake against other backs. The 54 receptions I've projected for him aren't a deal killer if it's not PPR, and all the other quality RB1 types are already selected.

However, that does become a factor in the decision-making process - if you go Jones, Mahomes, or Kelce - what options are left when you pick again? Plus, Jones and Kelce lose more value than Drake considering they are mammoths at their positions with receptions adding more value in PPR options. Similarly, it gives Mahomes slightly more value. In some cases, Mahomes makes it back to 3.09 but that's not a good bet. Back to Drake, he's the 12th RB and if you don't grab him then you're venturing into the realm of backs that are often discussed and typically avoided because they all carry more questions, concerns, and risks. A non-PPR scoring format seems to separate the haves and have nots more clearly, so I'm taking Drake while I can.

  • He should be the featured back in a top offense
  • He is more likely than not to also be featured at the goal line
  • Arizona's RBs last year combined for a top 5 numbers
  • The offensive line should at least be minimally improved
  • Better surrounding talent should only help Drake, not hurt him

I do like the idea of getting Kelce and praying Mahomes comes back to you for the Chiefs stack, but that's risky and probably 40% chance Mahomes is still on the board.

While I do have Jones valued above Kelce and Mahomes from purely a projections point of view, I prefer the youthful legs, upside, and opportunity that Drake represents compared to Jones' age and likelihood that he won't suddenly become a 10-TD receiver or that Calvin Ridley will rise in target share and take some shine off Jones' bottom line.

I know I can get several receivers in the next round that I'm comfortable with as my WR1. At quarterback, I'm quite happy to wait longer to get one of the Top 6. At tight end, more often than not I'm targeting my pick around round 9 with T.J. Hockenson or Hayden Hurst (or go back-to-back and get them both).

Getting Drake at the end of the RB1 stack is about as nice of a gift as I could ask for here at 2.04. In this exercise. it's not clear who "we" selected first at 1.09. Either way, getting Drake as either a second running back or one of Adams or Hill as a WR1 is a great way to start your team.

Andrew Davenport

I agree, Jason. Among these three it is a fairly easy choice to go with Kelce. Bob makes a great case for Kenyan Drake and he almost persuaded me, but it's still Kelce for me.

I love Mahomes as much as the next guy, but the early second round is too steep for me. I'm not a categorical never take a quarterback early guy, but I've never been able to construct a roster I really like when I go quarterback that high. Justin made me chuckle but his description is perfect - Mahomes would have "to melt the earth" again for me to feel good about taking him here.

Jones is actually one of my favorite guys to end up with early in the 2nd round this year, but I can't get behind that thinking in a Non-PPR format. So much of his value is derived from his consistent catch and yardage totals, but we all know how the touchdowns have been a problem. He's a very good WR1 option, but I'm not overly excited for him at 2.04 without the PPR bump.

Kelce is my choice mostly from the gap he provides over the field at the position. It's worth noting that the gap between Kelce and Kittle is even bigger when touchdowns are factored in for this format. In a down year last year, Kelce still had over 1,200 yards despite recording a disappointing 5 touchdowns. Kittle on the other hand has never scored more than five. So I don't think there is any reason Kelce's dominance and scoring gap won't be in place again in 2020. That's worth the 2.04 for me.

Devin Knotts

I'll take Julio Jones here. In a non-PPR setting, I'm looking for consistency this early, and Julio Jones provides that as he has finished as a top 6 wide receiver every year since 2015 in a Non-PPR format. While Jones is entering his age 31 season, he should have one or two more productive years ahead of him and has not shown any signs of slowing down.

I see the loss of Austin Hooper to Hayden Hurst a considerable one and expect that we will see the distribution of targets continue to be focused on the Falcons receiving group here. The big thing for Jones has always been will he get enough Red Zone looks and while he is consistently in the Top 20 in red-zone targets, the one benefit he has is that Hooper saw 15 last season, so one might expect that a few more could be going to Julio.

While Travis Kelce is intriguing, I'm not sure in a non-PPR setting that he will have enough of a gap between players such as Mark Andrews later in the draft.

Sigmund Bloom

Kelce is probably my pick here because the dropoff is the largest to what will be available at my 3.9. I will be breaking any ties against wide receivers in any scoring format this year. Mahomes is definitely a consideration, as nonPPR lowers the value of every position except quarterback, so Mahomes value grows.

Chris Allen

Kelce without much hesitation. I've never been a proponent of grabbing a quarterback that early because the opportunity cost at RB/WR is too high. I have some reservations about Julio (95% of it is age-related), but even at the 2.04, I'd be looking at one of the low-end RB1s (Drake, Chubb, etc.). In short, I think you can get someone in Julio's tier in the next round. That leaves us with Kelce. He's averaged a 23.8% target share over the past four seasons. It's low-end WR1 volume and elite tight end production attached to one of the best offenses in the NFL. I'll take an advantage at a onesie position and find what I need later in the draft.

Jeff Tefertiller

Of the three, I prefer Kelce due to the points-per-game edge he gives your fantasy team. Mahomes was QB5/6 in average points scored per game so there are equal or better options - like Dak Prescott - cheaper. Jones is a tough one because we don't know how A.J. Dillon's usage with no preseason. He's still a value at this pick, but prefer Kelce.

Joe Bryant

Kelce for me. It's the classic Value-Based Drafting argument. When everyone has to draft a tight end, a guy like Kelce simply puts more distance between himself and his tight end peers than you'll likely get with other players here. Even Mahomes who I love. It's not just about points. It's about separation and posting more points than the other teams in your league.

Phil Alexander

I'm on board with Drake ahead of this trio. If it were PPR scoring, I would rather Austin Ekeler also.

If forced to choose one of the three, it would be Kelce by a fair margin. He's finished as the TE1 in non-PPR scoring in three of the last four seasons. And in the one year he finished second, he was four fantasy points behind Rob Gronkowski from making it a clean sweep.

Mahomes isn't giving you the same weekly edge due to how tightly bunched together quarterback scoring usually is. Jones' age, injury concerns, and consistent lack of touchdowns take him out of the argument.

Aaron Rudnicki

Agree with Bob and Phil that I'd likely pass on all three of those players and take Kenyan Drake. In a non-PPR draft, I prefer to start RB-RB as I think that provides much more flexibility later on. There just aren't enough three-down feature backs to go around and I think the dropoff at other positions will be much less severe. Landing a running back with 1500 yard/10+ touchdown potential here is hard to pass up.

David Dodds

Sign me up for Julio Jones here. The scoring system makes all of the difference because if the league was PPR I would be looking to secure RB Austin Ekeler here.

Matt Ryan has averaged 3,550 passing yards over the last two seasons mostly on the back of Julio Jones. But despite Jones being a year older, there are indications that the team might need to rely on him even more in 2020. The Falcons moved on from pass-catching tight end Austin Hooper and a solid WR3 in Mohamed Sanu. Hayden Hurst and Russell Gage are expected to soak up some of the vacated targets in a more balanced offense but don't be surprised when Julio Jones finishes the year with massive target volume and lofty statistics.

Dan Hindery

I'd go off the board and take Lamar Jackson over all three of these options. The scoring gap that Jackson generates due to his rushing numbers should be bigger than the gap any of these other players generates at his position in the standard scoring format.

Here are a few stats from recent seasons to provide some context:

  1. Lamar Jackson scored 11 PPG more than the QB12 last season. Travis Kelce scored just under 10 PPG total in standard scoring. Last season, you could have had Lamar Jackson as your quarterback and literally taken a 0 every single week at tight end and still outscored a team with the QB12 and Travis Kelce at tight end.

    Jackson over Kelce by a good margin for me.

  2. Lamar Jackson scored 11 PPG more than the QB12 last season. Travis Kelce scored just under 10 PPG total in standard scoring. Last season, you could have had Lamar Jackson as your quarterback and literally taken a 0 every single week at tight end and still outscored a team with the QB12 and Travis Kelce at tight end.

    Jackson over Jones by a mile for me.

  3. Patrick Mahomes II versus Lamar Jackson is the toughest call. In Mahomes' absurd 2018 season (5,097 passing yards and 50 touchdowns with 252 rushing yards and 2 rushing scores), he scored 28.8 fantasy PPG. Last season, Lamar Jackson scored 30.5 PPG (standard FBG scoring). Jackson has the higher fantasy ceiling.

    I'm not expecting a full repeat of Jackson's amazing 2019 season, but I'm also not expecting a repeat of 2018 from Mahomes. It's a close call but Jackson's elite rushing ability gives him a better floor/ceiling combination than Mahomes.

Jeff Pasquino

I'm with Jason - the clear choice is the elite tight end, Travis Kelce.

Pro Bowl level talent, the No. 1 clear option at the position, a major part of a top-five offense. That's hard to beat, and his floor is very high. That weighs heavily for the first 2-3 rounds (high floor, minimizing downside risk to start the draft).

The only downside here (assuming that the picks went as listed) is that you might be starting the team off with a wide receiver / tight end beginning in a non-PPR league. That means the next two picks should be running backs (focus on Chris Carson in Round 3, perhaps Mark Ingram II in Round 4) to get a more balanced lineup (and be in a position to take advantage of any players falling too far). Running back is critical next in Round 3.

Jeff Haseley

If I am not taking another running back, it's Travis Kelce for me. The elite tight ends drop off fast after Kelce and George Kittle and taking Kelce here would be a step in the right direction for building a balanced team that includes an elite tight end. The 2.04 spot is a prime area for Kelce if he's not selected already. I would be thrilled to land Kelce at this pick in the draft.

John Norton

I might go with Kelce or Kittle here just because there is such a difference between them and the next tier of tight ends. There is not much chance either would make it to the end of Round 3. Also, jumping the position might make others think harder about taking a tight end, allowing some else to slip. It's an approach I've used with success in the past and you can't go wrong with one of those guys.

Jordan McNamara

I wouldn't take Mahomes here. If I want to go high-end quarterback in a draft this year, I'll take Dak Prescott later in the draft. I love the value of going with a heavy running back volume approach later in drafts and this is a pivot point in this strategy. If you select a non-wide receiver here, you will likely need to take an additional wide receiver later. Kenyan Drake, Austin Ekeler, and 2019 PPR monster Leonard Fournette all are options here at running back, but I think the selection of Julio Jones is a better roster construction pick when all is said and done.

Select Comments from The Shark Pool

Dr. Ocotpus

I know VBD may dictate it, but I never like the way my teams turn out when I take a quarterback or a tight end in early Round 2. Jones for me.

jm192

Definitely not Mahomes. I might take him at the right spot in the 3rd round, but probably not. Not taking him or Lamar in the 2nd.

It's difficult on the other 2. I think Kelce is the right answer, but Julio is sexier.

I think that Matt Ryan has a big year throwing the ball. Lots of targets opened up with Hooper going away. I think Gurley provides a demension they haven't had since Freeman was good. (And I certainly don't think Gurley is elite at this point). But he'll be good enough to keep the offense moving. He'll help them finish in the red-zone. He'll move the chains.

People are always down Julio due to touchdowns. He's had four seasons of at least eight touchdowns in nine years. He's overdue for some positive touchdown regression. If the Falcons offense hums, as I expect it to, he'll finish as WR1 or WR2. I love the guy, and I'll probably have a lot of shares this year.

Kelce had 1229 and 5 and it was a down year. He's had four straight 1,000 yard seasons from the tight end spot. The two years prior, he had 8 and 10 touchdowns. He scored four times in the playoffs. I guess, what I'm trying to say, is that he scores touchdowns. He's my slam dunk TE1. I know some people think Kittle surpasses him, but I don't see it with the 49ers running so much and Kansas City passing so much. Kelce also has the benefit of playing with the best quarterback in the game.

And then I'll get to the point. Wide receiver is insanely deep. And there are a ton of bounce back values. I love OBJ and JuJu to bounce back and finish as WR1s. I love Ridley, Kupp, Sutton, etc. Wide receiver is deep. I appreciate the sentiment you have to spend up to get an advantage, but I honestly think the value plays are huge this year. And a lot of these guys can break into WR1 territory.

Kelce will give you such a silly advantage week to week at tight end. He's consistent. He's explosive. Get you some Kelce.

KChusker

Julio is so disrespected somehow

Easily take him over any wide receiver not named MT or Tyreek

Hopkins for sure has no business going ahead of him in a redraft league

msudaisy26

How can you take Julio over Adams?

KChusker

That's closer but I want no part of the Packers if I can help it. Rodgers and Lafleur--don't trust either of them for fantasy purposes

Also despite being older Julio has been more durable than Adams in recent years.

msudaisy26

I get the first part, but the second part is minor. I think you are using recency bias. In the last four years, Adams has missed seven games and Julio has missed four. Plus one of the games Adams missed was a Week 17 game so it most likely didn't do anything to your fantasy team.

jwsbowler

For me, it comes down to Jones and Godwin... and in the redraft, Jones wins my vote.

Duckboy

Close between Julio and Kelce for me. Top tight end provides a pretty good positional advantage especially in standard so I’d lean Kelce here. In PPR, I probably go Julio.

Deadweight19

I can see not wanting Ekeler at 2.04 (goal-line touches/non-PPR). Too early for Mahomes for my blood (unless 6pt touchdown pass or quarterback-favored scoring method). With Mahomes off the table, it's either Julio or Kelce, right? I don't know that either of those would be your best option available given who has already been drafted. I would have Kenyon Drake circled at this draft slot. If it is a must between Julio and Kelce, I would lean towards Jones and hope Kittle falls to me coming back. I would rather have Drake at 2.04 than the other available options.

bostonfred

In 16 full games last year (13 regular, 3 post) Mahomes had 4856 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. The year before that he had 5000/50. He also got 200 plus yards and 2 touchdowns rushing.

The arguments against taking an elite quarterback early is that it's exceptionally rare for the record-setting quarterbacks to repeat an elite performance the following year, it's hard to find stud receivers and running backs later in the draft, and it's usually very possible to get a quarterback who seriously outperforms his draft position later in the draft.

For the first part, Mahomes is arguably a bargain at the end of the second, because of his 4800/35 floor and 5000/50 potential. He's not particularly at risk for injury.

The second argument - that you miss out on elite running backs and wide receivers - is less of a concern in July than late August/early September. Three-down backs are available in the third and fourth rounds, and possible starters available in the fifth or later. That changes when news becomes more concrete and people who had been holding out for Mack or Jonathan Taylor now flock to one or the other, which reduces supply, which increases demand. Which pushes the good quarterbacks and receivers down a little. While the running back bargains are available, it makes more sense to wait. In August drafts, it won't. That puts quarterback and tight end back on the table.

The third argument is that you only play one quarterback so taking an elite one early means you can't find that ADP overachiever later. Every year a later round guy goes off and their owner reaps the rewards. It's harder to do that with other positions.

But the best way to get that overachiever is to take multiple quarterbacks in the mid-rounds. If you take Brady, hoping he goes off with those weapons in Tampa, don't you have to take a backup fairly early in case he plays like he's 43? If you take Kyler, don't you need a strong backup in case he gets hurt between his running and the scheme? It depends on the league, of course, but in leagues with larger roster sizes, there's very little left on waivers. In short bench leagues, you might still use a QBBC but you're probably using waiver claims and roster spots to get that committee. That's not something you have to worry about with Mahomes.

Compare that with Kelce, who gives a big advantage over most tight ends. And the same arguments apply, except there are a couple more stud tight ends this year, Kelce isn't quite as big an ADP outlier during his best season as Mahomes was in his, and you really don't need to do TEBC in most leagues.

And Jones is a stud in PPR, but he may begin to decline this year as he's getting close to the end at 33, and Ridley seems to be emerging, plus Gurley is in town. The days of 170 targets may be over. He's still got a high floor and should be a PPR stud as always, but Mahomes has league-winning upside while Jones might not at this stage.

popeye

Mahomes - I wouldn't tell someone who went with Jones that they are wrong, but Mahomes feels like a better move.

Select Comments from Facebook

Andrew F

I'm taking Mahomes. When in doubt, follow the money. Mahomes is a stud quarterback. That's why he got paid and that's why I want him on my team. Watching Mahomes play is like watching a conductor at a symphony. When he raises his right arm, I just know I'm in for a magical treat!

Belvin M

I still want another back since this non-PPR, but there aren’t any at this value point so rather than forcing a decision I would wait until Round 3 and grab a running back there, maybe Gurley? Here the pick is Kelce he provides a rock-solid floor with the ceiling of TE1. His numbers challenge most wide receivers and can help provide that difference in winning matchups on a weekly basis.

Zachary T

Kelce easily. Julio has great yards but little touchdown upside. You can find another suitable quarterback later like Wilson. In PPR scoring, I may lean Julio though

Harry K

Of these three, I’m taking Jones but I’d also seriously consider Ekeler or Drake in this spot.

Joe B

Kelce. Too early for Mahomes in single-QB. Happy with wide receivers I can get in the third so can pass on Jones

Jay N

Godwin. Brady needs a new Edelman.

Alan K

Going Kelce. So many wide receivers in Rounds 3-6. Especially standard non-PPR, so I could see Mahomes being selected.

If you'd like to have the chance to appear in the next Pick-a-Player article, join us on the Footballguys Facebook page and/or the Shark Pool message board. We'll have a new group of players to pick from every few days until a week before the season starts.


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