What is one supposed to do when they are going through fantasy football withdrawals? The answer to that question is start doing some best ball drafts. This is best ball season people and this is when it is fun because the playing field has yet to be totally set. We don't know where the rookies are going, we don't know where all the free agents are landing, and we don't even know when a teams bye week is going to be. All these unknowns add to the fun of early season best ball . I call these early best ball leagues the Russian Roulette leagues, because of all these unknowns.
Now typically going into any best ball league we have one objective, which is being the team to be a top scorer every week. Best balls differ from your season long redrafts due to the fact that after you draft you are done. There are no trades, there are no waiver runs, there are no setting weekly line ups, nothing. Every week your top scoring players will be your starting line up. So one can imagine how important the draft is. Going into these early Roulette leagues I follow only two rules to ensure a solid high scoring team. The first is early in the draft target established high volume players, or safe players that you know can be consistent week after week. The second rule is as the draft goes deeper and deeper target players with upside. Finding that secondary player that can offer multiple weeks of high end upside or 1 production is the difference between being competitive all season or being in the bottom and out by week 7.
Now lets follow along with the draft I recently completed with some of the brightest minds in the game and see how these rules helped me draft a sexy team. This draft was a 12 team PPR which went 20 rounds deep. I was drafting out of the four hole. We will break this down into 4 five round quarters. As we move along we also want to see what picture this draft paints as it pertains to how players are being viewed in 2020 as of now.
The First Quarter
(Rounds 1-5, The Top 60)
The top 60 picks kicked off with a shocker coming with the first overall pick right out the gate, Joe Mixon being taken at 1.1. It should be noted this is not happening anywhere else but here because the guy picking first overall is a die hard Bengals fan. We are high on Joe Mixon this season but not this high. With Mixon being taken at one that pushes big time value down the board, so much value that I am able to grab Saquan Barkley at 1.4. This falls right in line with rule number 1, high volume safe consistent play. Along with Mixon and Barkley there were a total of 29 running backs taken in the top 60 which equates to 48.3% of players drafted in this quarter. Among that 29 we see 2 rookies, the only two rookies, being drafted in the top 60 and they were Jonathan Taylor and De'Andre Swift. These rookies being taken this early should speak volumes to you as we don't even know which team they will land on later this month, but the talent is unbelievable and no matter where they land they are likely to make an impact early on. So much of an anticipated impact that teams were willing to spend a early pick on Taylor (3.1) and Swift (4.10).
The top 60 of this draft also featured many wide outs being taken, 24, to be exact. The 24 receivers being taken made up 40% of the players being taken. We see the first wide out taken at pick 1.5 and to no surprise we see it's last years WR1 Michael Thomas. He is followed by new Arizona receiver DeAndre Hopkins at the tell end of round one, and Davante Adams, and Julio Jones shortly after early on in round two. Many of the teams drafting in this best ball locked up at least two wide outs in the top 60 , with the exception of two teams, me being one. My thinking and the way the draft was falling I knew I wanted to lock up three solid running backs early in the top rounds because the position dries up very quickly. I also knew that the wide out depth is insanely deep and I could land solid players in the mid to later rounds. So with three of my first five picks I land three starting running backs who all have potential to have big weeks often throughout the season as their teams staring back in Barkley, Singletary, and Ingram. I added The Bills new WR1 Stefon Diggs to them because he screams upside in this Buffalo offense. Also I would like to point out that Godwin is still valued over Evans as well as look at how Keenan Allen's draft stock has fallen with the exit of Phil Rivers. We see Sutton, Metcalf, Robinson, Deebo, and Parker all being taken before Keenan here, and I have no problem with it. Allen has been a late second to early third pick over his whole careerbasically and now he finds himself in the middle part of round five as the 22nd receiver taken, making him a backend WR2 this season at best.
As expected you can see that quarterbacks were not a priority in these early rounds, and nor should they ever be, with the exception of the two taken in this draft, Patrick Mahomes and the guy I took at 2.9 Lamar Jackson. Many have these two being taken pretty close to where they were taken here, Jackson in the late second and Patty in the late third to early fourth. Now historically, I am the wait on quarterback let someone else over draft guy. However, at this point in the draft I wanted to lock up that stud at the position because the players that were on the board Evans, Cooper, Fournette, Gordon, OBJ, fell behind Jackson in regards to my first rule criteria, so at this point in the draft Jackson was the best player available in my opinion. Now the argument can be made and I may agree that Patty may be better than Lamar this season, but at this stage of the off season i still have Jackson slightly ahead of Mahomes in best ball rankings.
The last thing we see in the first quarter is that only 5 tight ends were taken. Kelce (2.4), Kittle (3.5), Ertz (5.7), Andrews (5.10), and Engram (5.12). What stands out to you? Well a few things should the first is that Kittle has finally cemented himself above Zach Ertz as the TE2 in the big three. We also notice that Andrews is viewed as a top four option at the position and should be ranked over Ertz in my opinion. The last thing I want to mention is Evan Engram being taken as TE5 is disgusting. There is no way in hell he should be drafted ahead of the likes of Darren Waller, Austin Hooper, Jared Cook, Noah Fant, Hunter Henry, or do I dare say Eric Ebron. Engram has proven the last few years that he can not be relied upon to stay healthy, and for him to be taken at 60 pry goes down as the worst pick of this quarter.
The Second Quarter
(Rounds 6-10, The Next 60)
As we move into the second quarter we see a significant drop in one positions group and upticks in all other positions. The group that dropped off the most is running back as there were only 13 backs taken in this quarter making up only 21% of players drafted. We see backs such as Darrell Henderson go as there is a lot who believe he is going to be the guy in the Rams backfield. However, I am a firm believer that the next great back out of Rams camp isn’t even rostered yet. We see a slew of rookie backs come of the board in rounds 6 and 7 as JK Dobbins, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Cam Akers being taken. They join rookies Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb as the only rookies taken in this quarter. Speaking of Jeudy and Lamb they are among the position group that led this quarter in players drafted.
The wide receivers led the quarter with 27 players being selected at the position making up 45% of players drafted. If you recall what I said above I mentioned that I personally was going to target the position heavy in this phase of the draft because there was a lot of depth at the position, and many players who met my second rule criteria, high end upside. So keeping this rule in mind I went ahead and drafted a wide out with four of my five selections. I was able to land Terry McLaurin who proved last year he screams upside. I added another player in Michael Gallup who’s arrow is pointing way up outshining Amari Cooper many times last season. I than drafted the a for mentioned top rookie prospect CeeDee Lamb who I can see being drafted and utilized heavily right away no matter who drafts him this month. Then I add in Emmanuel Sanders who moves to the Saints and will benefit playing with Brees and opposite Michael Thomas. I can see Sanders offering several weeks of solid scoring at the position. Among my haul we saw players such as Robert Woods, AJ Green, Julian Edelman, and TY Hilton all were being taken in this group of 60. Wide receiver isn’t the only group who saw a big uptick as we started to see many quarterbacks fly off the board.
The QB position accounted for 20% of players being drafted in this quarter as 12 signal callers were taken. Kyler Murray came off the Board as the third QB taken in this draft followed by Dak both in the 6th round. We than saw Wilson, Watson, and Ryan come off the board in the 9th. The biggest rush on the position came in the 10th as 7 of the 12 picks were quarterbacks. Josh Allen, Danny Dimes, Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, Rodgers, Baker, and Tannehill were all taken in this group. The biggest thing that stood out to me in this round as far as quarterbacks is D. Jones being taken before the likes of Brady, Wentz, and Rodgers. I have those guys all above D. Jones. Also Kyler Murray being taken as the third quarterback shouldn’t surprise many as he is being viewed as this year’s Lamar Jackson. I would like to point out that the difference there is Jackson was nowhere near the top of the position conversation at this time last year and even in the fall. Murray is being hyped up and the last person to be hyped up was Baker last year and he fell flat on his face, as did that entire offense. So let’s not get carried away just yet, but for best ball purposes I like Murray and have no problem with the pick.
The last position we will talk about for this quarter is the tight end position which made up 13.3% of picks. We saw a total of 8 tight ends being drafted in this span. Las Vegas Raider tight end Darren Waller kicked things off in the sixth followed by Henry in the seventh and Hooper and Higbee being drafted in the 8th. This is where I selected Austin Hooper who is coming off a great season. I was skeptical of Hooper here only because of the fact that he moves from heavy volume in Atlanta to a more talented receiving corps in Cleveland. The only thing that sold me on Hooper here is new head coach Kevin Stefanski loves to involve the tight end position in his offensive scheme as he likes to run double tight end sets. In the ninth we see four more tight ends selected in Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson, Mike Gesicki, and Jared Cook.
The Third Quarter
(Rounds 11-15, The Rooks)
Typically in these early best ball leagues this quarter is when we see the most rookies come off the board. This holds true in this draft as we see 8 rookies taken accounting for 13.3% of players taken. Look at my picks in this group of 60. I have taken three rookies who meet my second rule criteria of upside (Burrow, Jefferson, Dillon).
Again the position most drafted in this quarter was wide receiver accounting for 30% of players drafted. There were a total of 18 taken led off by a pair of rookies in round 11 (Ruggs and Higgins). Players that should be targeted and had in this time frame of best balls include Sammy Watkins, Sterling Shepard, Dede Westbrook, Desean Jackson, James Washington, Tyrell and Preston Williams, and the play to make Antonio Brown. Yes in best ball you absolutely must nab Brown because of the upside. I nabbed him in round 15 and didn’t even hesitate taking him despite not being on a team. Brown will likely find a new home this season and in doing so will likely face a suspension, but when on the field he is a top talent. I liked the upside of Brown more than the guys that were available such as the Cole Beasley’s and Gardner Minshews.
Running backs made up 26.6% of players drafted in this quarter, with 16 being taken. The thing that I found most interesting when it came to the position in this quarter was Malcom Brown being taken in the 13th round. It’s interesting because fellow Ram running back Darrell Henderson was taken way back in round 6. Everyone is on the Henderson hype train as I mentioned before, but I am not one of them. Malcom was more productive last season and looked like the better player so getting him in the 13th screams value to me. This quarter also sees a lot of handcuffs and compliment backs being taken as Mattison, Pollard, Edmonds, Lat. Murray, and Cohen being selected.
The second run on quarterbacks happens in this quarter as well with 12 being selected, accounting for 20% of players drafted. I led off the selections in round 11 selecting Burrow with the fourth pick in the round. I chose to pair the rookie with Lamar Jackson as both offer huge upside. The other signal callers selected in the same round after were Brees, Cousins, and Goff. The next round we see Drew Lock, Big ben, and Matthew Stafford come off the board. Jimmy G in the 13th followed by both Tua and Teddy in round 14 were the next to be chosen. The last two quarterbacks to come off the board in the quarter happened in round 15 with Darnold and Minshew being selected.
The tight end position garnered a lot of attention in this quarter as well accounting for the same 20% of players being selected. There were 12 tight ends selected many who have big upside, again meeting rule number two, this season. OJ Howard, riding the Brady hype train, got things kicked off in round 11. The pick was followed by Ian Thomas, Blake Jarwin, and Jonnu Smith to round out the round. In round 12 I select Jack Doyle due to the fact that his new QB Phil Rivers has historically always supported a TE1 as he feeds the ball to the position. This is the upside I was looking for. It was between Doyle and the next tight end selected Eric Ebron. I see a big bounce back for Ebron this season in Pittsburgh as he will be a huge red zone threat which screams upside. Ebron got the tight end section kicked off in round 13, which highlights my favorite round of tight ends. This is my favorite because all the picks have the potential to win you a best ball league and a season long league. With that in mind if you want to wait on tightened and attack late the players that you want to target are the ones selected here in round 13 Ebron, Jace Sternberger, and Hayden Hurst.
Then in round 15 to close out the quarter we see the first defenses come off the board which accounted for 3.4% of those drafted. The first that comes off the board is the SF defense followed right up by the NE defense. Both of these squads were big time scorers especially early last season and has the potential to do it again, which bodes well for best ball and fantasy teams alike.
The Fourth Quarter
The final rounds bring on a slew of defensive picks, 21 to be exact, which made up 35% of players drafted. We see 13% of players drafted being that of the wide receiver position. Notable veteran wide outs being taken in this quarter are Alshon Jeffery, Larry Fitzgerald, Randall Cobb, and Corey Davis. We also see some more rookie wide outs with big upside going in this quarter, which I would be more inclined to take over the above mentioned vets. The rookies that were selected in the late rounds were Mims, Reagor, and Shenault. If you’re asking yourself why I am so high on these rookies my answer is go watch the tape, all are big plays waiting to happen.
The last quarter also sees 7 more quarterbacks being taken, which accounted for 11.6% of drafted players. The signal callers drafted in this area were Rivers, Newton, Carr, Fitspatrick, Stidham, Foles, and Tyrod Taylor. What stands out to me most is the fact that Nick Foles was drafted and Mitch Trubisky was not. This tells me that as of this being written many feel Foles will be the starter in Chicago this season. I don’t know if I’m ready to buy into that narrative just yet. Mitch may get the fire lit that he has shown flashes of. Also I would like to point out that last year’s top five fantasy quarterback Jameis Winston was not drafted.
There were 8 tight ends taken in this quarter making up 13.3% of players drafted. Among the tight ends grabbed in this quarter we see all three Seattle Tight ends taken in Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, and Jacob Hollister. We also see some handcuffs taken in Cameron Brate and K. Smith to back up OJ Howard and Evan Engram. The final position group being drafted in this quarter making up 18.3% of players drafted was the running backs. There were a total of 11 running backs taken in this quarter. Some notable running backs taken here are Gus Edwards, Darwin Thompson, AP, Breida, Hyde, Royce Freeman, J. Samuels, Benny Snell, and Gio Bernard to name a few. We see a theme in the backs mentioned in the last sentence and that theme is they are all backups and hand cuffs to many players taken much earlier in the draft.