1.11 TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2.02 WR A.J. Green, Bengals
These picks were easy. Gronkowski locks in top 10 wide receiver scoring at tight end. Green should see a target spike with the Bengals losses at wide receiver this offseason. He's vying with Dez Bryant for WR5 on my board. I'm not tempted at running back here because of the lower ceiling and higher risk than WR/TE peers, and because I like the running back value in later rounds enough to count on running back groups without an anchor unless it's a top two (Bell, Gurley) option.
3.11 RB Eddie Lacy, Packers
4.2 WR Randall Cobb, Packers
I didn't intend on doubling up on Packers, but the value in both cases was too good to pass up. Lacy was down in 2015, but he is on track to get in better shape for 2016, and he's still a presumptive leadback. This was right before James Starks re-signed with Green Bay, or the Lacy pick would have been even more attractive. Starks is very cheap (15th round or later) Lacy insurance, and worth a late pick even if you didn't take Lacy.
Cobb was down in 2015 because Jordy Nelson's absence gummed up his works in the middle of the field, but there's no reason to think that will persist in 2016. The Packers also lack a proven third option at wide receiver, so the targets will be there for him. Having two wide receivers in tow this early will make it easier to ignore the position in the upcoming rounds.
5.11 QB Cam Newton, Panthers
6.2 RB Giovani Bernard, Bengals
Newton was a bit of a punt, as tight end would have been the better value here with Eifert and Olsen on the board, but I had Gronkowski already. This is one of the perils of taking Gronkowski in the first. Newton (or any of the top 3-4 quarterbacks) is still a good value at this point in the draft when viewed through the lens of adding points to your bottom line to separate at the top of standings via top 3-5 weeks.
Bernard is ending up on a ton of my MFL10 teams. His PPR prowess gives him a high enough weekly floor to be considered an RB2 for our purposes here, but he also has upside in the form of being a player entering his prime and the extra targets to soak up from the WR2 and WR3 the Bengals lost in free agency. He combines the safe floor to allow you to go running back light early with the ceiling to help you profit from your decision if he hits.
7.11 WR Michael Crabtree, Raiders
8.2 RB Charles Sims, Buccaneers
I don't understand why Crabtree is consistently available in the 7th round of MFL10s. He's a blue chip receiver in a solid pass offense who should be a quality WR2. I'll snatch him up at a WR3 price as often as I can. Sims, like Bernard, is one of my most common MFL10 rostered players. He'll get multiple receptions most weeks and provide a solid RB2 floor for bye/injury to my top two backs, with big play/touchdown/Doug Martin injury upside, in addition to being a player on the upslope of his career. I am fine with Bernard and Sims as my RB2 and RB3 in MFL10s, because I've likely banked advantages at QB/WR/TE to make the strategy pay off as long as they are steady and healthy, with a jackpot outcome if they hit due to injury or breakout.
9.11 WR Laquon Treadwell, Rookie
10.2 TE Antonio Gates, Chargers
I was really hoping for Frank Gore to fall a few more picks, he would have been the fourth high floor option to make me feel comfortable with my running back core. The rookie wide receivers seal hadn't been broken yet, and Treadwell is my #1 for MFL10s because of his ability to win one-on-one in the red zone and downfield. He'll likely get on the field right away. With three blue chippers on my roster, I was looking for upside here. Even though I had Rob Gronkowski, I was drawn to tight end here, with a likely run coming and options that were probably better for flex week potential than the wide receivers on the board. Gates' 2015 seems disappointing, but that was more because of his suspension than his production. He was still TE7 on a points per game basis, and the Chargers gave him six million dollars guaranteed on a two-year deal, so they are expecting him to continue to be a big presence. Ladarius Green's departure can only help.
11.11 RB Jerick McKinnon, Vikings
12.2 WR Nelson Agholor, Eagles
These were pure upside picks with all of my QB/RB/WR/TE starting personnel secured and more picks to build in floor on my bench coming up. McKinnon hinted at a breakout late last year, and he had the potential of a spike in receptions before the team re-signed Matt Asiata a few days after this pick. I would target rookie Kenneth Dixon over McKinnon if the pick was on the board today. Agholor should have his bearing in year two and he'll be the downfield threat in the Philadelphia offense. Rookie Josh Doctson was enticing and Pierre Garcon would have been a fine high floor option.
13.11 QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
14.2 RB Lance Dunbar, Cowboys
I was pleased with the return on this pair of picks. Stafford was a mid-low QB1 with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, and I believe the offense running through him will help offset any drop the loss of Calvin Johnson builds into his profile. He has been my QB2 target in the 13th/14th all spring. Dunbar had 21 catches in the first three games of 2015, and the Cowboys didn't bring him back to simply return kicks. His ACL tear recovery injects risk, but low RB1 weekly upside more than makes up for that risk this late.
15.11 WR Jeff Janis, Packers
16.2 Seattle DEF/ST
Janis is a favorite late round target, with season-long upside as a potential WR3 as Davante Adams limps out of a 2015 disaster, and weekly upside as a deep threat with an elite quarterback. Sammie Coates and Brandon Coleman would normally be targets here, but I wanted a higher weekly floor WR7 to complement the three young boom/bust WR I selected as my WR4-6. Instead, I took an elite D/ST. Seattle had a somewhat slow 2015 defensively compared to 2014, but Tyler Lockett's two return scores helped. Even a small bounceback by the Legion of Boom will make the Seahawks a valuable late-round pick.
17.11 RB Devontae Booker, Rookie
18.2 WR Stevie Johnson, Chargers
Booker is my favorite late rookie running back pick. He has a three-down, rarely leave the field running back profile. It's just a question of where he lands. If opportunity falls into his lap, he could make up for any swing and miss picks at RB early. Johnson's durability was a problem in 2015, and his production was possibly inflated a bit by Keenan Allen's injury, but he is still a good firewall wide receiver for bye weeks or injuries as long as he stays on the field. He has a good quarterback, and his offense will likely remain pass heavy. The addition of Travis Benjamin shouldn't affect his snaps with Benjamin sliding into Malcom Floyd's role.
19.11 Cowboys D/ST
20.2 Raiders D/ST
Three defenses is the number you want to harness the peaks of weekly variance and hopefully avoid the troughs. The Cowboys could be a winning team again with Tony Romo back and the Raiders have Khalil Mack and an improving offense. I'll take them when sorting through the bargain bin of D/STs.
1.12 RB Devonta Freeman, Falcons
2.01 RB Thomas Rawls, Seahawks
Here in February, the overall fantasy world lacks a consensus No. 1 running back. That’s enough to make early drafters cling to receivers atop the first round, and that’s fine – these top WR options are excellent, and they seem more bust proof than any high-usage, high-contact running back. If you’re drafting in the top 2-3, I’m hard-pressed to talk you out of any of the top few wideouts.
But in best ball formats, it’s much easier to mix-and-match weekly production from WRs than from RBs. More wideouts find themselves involved in their offenses than running backs do, so the pool of productive players is just much larger. More importantly, the bust rate for running backs soars from reasonably low in the first two rounds to almost certain in the middle and late. The sleepers we love just don’t pan out to an appreciable level, and it takes a near-impossible stroke of luck to build stout RB production with late-round stabs. At the same time, variable WR1/2 production can be found up and down your draft’s first 8-10 rounds.
And generally speaking, our February/March views on what the RB landscape should look like won’t change that. Consistently high-scoring backs will always come at a premium, and the first few rounds will always be the only place to harvest them.
In that vein, I tend to approach most of my MFL10 drafts with an eye on exiting the first four rounds with three running backs. You could argue that the value rests with the WRs at 1.05, but I don’t see it that way. Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins are great assets, but not especially valuable ones – they won’t produce more 20+ point weeks than the top RBs will. If we can mirror Jones’ or Hopkins’ occasional dominance by loading up on mid-round WRs, then where’s the value in spending a first there? Especially when doing so keeps me from securing necessary early-round RB shares?
So why these two? Because they were there, and they were running backs. In this draft, I’m not so much seeking value (as in, the best-looking players at each draft slot) as I’m looking to build a RB1/2 stockpile that capitalizes on fast and loose RB drafting from opposing owners. It’s March, so the pile needs to be stable, as insulated from the common summer comings and goings as possible. And of the options on the board, Freeman and Rawls look like the best calls at the moment. Both are high-usage guys whose teams don’t look to be in the market for major competition. Freeman isn’t as good as he looked in Weeks 5 and 6, but he’s a dynamo from PPR (5+ catches in eight of 14 starts) and red zone (28 touches from inside the 10, more than Adrian Peterson) standpoints. And he seems worlds away from losing significant time to Tevin Coleman.
3.12 RB Jeremy Langford, Bears
Running back certainties grow scarce around this point – Sigmund snatched Eddie Lacy, my last tier-2 name, a pick before me – but I’m trusting my proven process. My goal here is to stock up on early-round RB2/3 types with weekly RB1 upside, and Langford should fit that to a T in MFL’s PPR system. As a rookie, he dominated the Bears offense with Matt Forte sidelined, then maintained a solid stake when splitting time (14.4 touches per full game after Forte’s return). Langford is unlikely to dominate the backfield Forte-style – the team will likely add a complementary back or keep spelling with underwhelming talent Ka’Deem Carey. But he’s a playmaker who already beat all comers for the job last year. All in all, making Langford the RB16 off the board looks like a great upside play.
4.01 WR Jarvis Landry, Dolphins
With three solid RBs in tow, I’m ready to jump into the receiver market. At this point of the draft, we’re nearing the end of the weekly-WR2 tier – and that’s exactly when I want to start buying. These guys are typically a bit undervalued compared to the bigger names of Round 2, but tend to slide down boards since Round 3 is often so RB-heavy. For me, PPR monster Landry beats out the likes of Jeremy Maclin (mega-conservative offense) and Eric Decker (QB uncertainty). He’s consistent and actually has room to improve on his already impressive PPR production. Landry hasn’t produced many touchdowns as a pro, but that seems fluky – he’s utilized near the goal line as often as anyone. In 2015, no one saw more targets from inside the 5-yard line than Landry’s 8, and only Allen Robinson matched him on throws from inside the 10 (14). Landry’s catches, rushes, and returns are enough to validate this pick, but a proportionately strong TD count could make this a league-winner.
5.12 WR Donte Moncrief, Colts
6.01 WR John Brown, Cardinals
Here’s where I beef up my WR corps with a couple of best ball bargains. These guys are widely considered upside-only plays, but both (a) have already arrived as elite playmakers (Brown boasts a 10.6% TD rate through his two years, and Moncrief sits close behind at 9.4%); and (b) project to the kind of volume we can believe in for solid floors (both topped 100 targets in Year Two and have great prognoses on their respective depth charts). These are clear WR2 candidates with WR3 floors, drafted as the WR33 and 34.
7.12 RB Javorius Allen, Ravens
Allen may not be the runner Justin Forsett is, but he may well be – Forsett is 30 and topped 4.1 yards per rush in just three of his nine full games last year. Couple that uncertainty with Allen’s brilliant receiving debut (45 catches and two scores), and we have strong workhorse potential at the No. 84 (RB34) spot. Allen can win PPR leagues with this kind of draft value.
8.01 QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
9.12 WR Steve Smith, Ravens
10.01 QB Drew Brees, Saints
11.12 WR Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers
At this point, my top RB/WR/TE options – Theo Riddick, Jonathan Stewart, Ladarius Green –are being sniped left and right. I thoroughly devalue QBs in MFL10 drafts, sometimes punting entirely until the double-digit rounds. I’d be fine rostering a combination like Eli Manning (12th-round ADP), Tyrod Taylor (13th), and Ryan Fitzpatrick (16th). But other MFL10ers are picking up on the strategy, so there are some great values available on high-impact passers. By spending my 8th and 10th on the QB position, I walk away with two likely top-six weekly options at more-than-affordable rates. Roethlisberger has room to improve on a dynamic yet shortened season, and Brees will continue to rival any QB on earth in volume. I can easily afford a third QB as insulation – one who will come very cheaply, as in Round 15 or later.
Amidst the QBs, I scooped my WR4 and WR5 in Smith and Ginn. Smith is near the end, of course, but he’s still likely to spend a hunk of 2016 as the Ravens’ No. 1 option. Joe Flacco targeted Smith relentlessly when healthy, and the additions of speedsters Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman shouldn’t really threaten Smith’s role in the short game.
I’m also excited about getting Ginn here, as the 56th WR taken. He won’t catch 10 touchdowns again, especially with Kelvin Benjamin back in the lineup. But he’ll still make plays – he’s caught 15 scores in two years with cannon-armed Cam Newton, accounting for a whopping 18.8% of his receptions. In 2014, Carolina peppered Benjamin and Greg Olsen with gobs of targets, but still found 138 looks for the likes of Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, and Brenton Bersin. Even in an inefficient season, Ginn could crush this WR56 value in a best ball league – just one or two huge games stemming from that awesome TD rate cashes this one in.
12.01 TE Martellus Bennett, Patriots
13.12 TE Charles Clay, Bills
I find it interesting that Bennett and new teammate Rob Gronkowski lead all tight ends in yards after contact since 2013. The Patriots realize they possess zero real talent at WR (Julian Edelman is what he is) and want to return to generating yardage through mismatch-creating tight ends who can move with the ball. Bennett would he hard-pressed not to stake a claim to at least 70-90 targets. If he were to match the production of just Hernandez’s rookie year, he’d post a 51-638-7 line over 16 games. That score would’ve finished as the TE9 last year, and it comes to me at the TE16. Give me all of the Bennett in any Round 12 you see, please.
I’ll pair him here with Clay, who should see an expanded role in Year Two as a Bill. He’s highly paid (second-highest among tight ends) and still only 27. In 12 full 2015 games, Clay saw 7+ targets five times and 13 targets twice. That handful of big games can really tilt an MFL10 week, especially when you’re going TE-by-committee as I am here.
14.01 RB Zach Zenner, Lions
15.12 TE Maxx Williams, Ravens
16.01 WR Sterling Shepard, rookie
As we hit the latter range of the draft, I’m ready to take some educated stabs at filling the bottom of my depth chart with upside plays. I may have been a bit eager on Zenner, for whom my heart beats in a very special way, but I’m not missing much of anything in Round 14. He’s among the most athletically gifted backs to enter the league over the last few years, and his productivity at South Dakota State was just unreal. The Lions got a passable rookie season from Ameer Abdullah and are likely to add another back, but Zenner would have a big leg up on a mid-round rookie or bargain-bin signing. I’m not a big fan of Williams’ talent, but Round 15 is an absurd discount for last year’s top-drafted TE. And Shepard may be the best slot technician of this ho-hum WR draft crop; I think he’ll land somewhere he can be semi-prominent and wind up much more valuable than this (Round 16) as a rookie.
17.12 D/ST Bills
18.01 D/ST Packers
19.12 QB Brock Osweiler, Texans
20.01 D/ST Colts
Three defenses are essential in a best ball league, as Sigmund Bloom pointed out last year. D/ST scoring varies wildly, and rostering three gives you a great probability of both avoiding each week’s defensive duds while also finding the top scorers. If nothing else, it stabilizes your weekly scoring in a very, very helpful way. While the defenses you choose don’t matter terribly much, it pays to chase splash plays (sacks and turnovers) rather than spending earlyish picks on units you expect to shut down scoring.
Assuming you have two upper-tier QBs already, Osweiler is an ideal No. 3 – a near-guaranteed starter who’s next to free. Few passers available in Round 19 will be starters all year, but Osweiler has arguably the best chance with his sizeable contract. And his mediocre Texans should spend much of the year trailing.