With free agency and the NFL Draft squarely in the rear view, the ribbon has officially been cut on the 2017 fantasy football draft season.
Well, not really.
But the major puzzle pieces needed to create team and player projections with some semblance of intelligence are now in place, and that’s cause for celebration here at Footballguys HQ. To mark the occasion, 12 staffers got together to draft the first all-Footballguys MFL10 league of the upcoming season.
If you’re unfamiliar with the MFL10 format, you can check out this handy primer our Justin Howe wrote last year. But if you have no interest in learning about or trying MFL10s for yourself, and just want some early ADP and player analysis to help you start prepping for your redraft league, you should still find this article useful.
MFL10s are best ball leagues, which means your best scoring players at each position are automatically inserted into your starting lineup each week. There are no lineups to set, no waiver wire, and no trades -- only the draft. The format places a bit of a premium on high-ceiling players as opposed to those with safer floors. It also requires you to take a slightly different approach to roster construction than traditional redraft leagues, but otherwise you won’t find a significant difference between MFL10 and traditional PPR redraft ADP.
Below are the results of the first four rounds of the staff league, along with some of my takeaways from each round. If you’re interested in what happened after Round 4, the full draft results are available here.
1.01 Justin Bonnema - Elliott, Ezekiel DAL RB
1.02 Stephen Holloway - Johnson, David ARI RB
1.03 Sigmund Bloom - Bell, Le'Veon PIT RB
1.04 Jeff Haseley - Brown, Antonio PIT WR
1.05 Alex Miglio - Beckham, Odell NYG WR
1.06 Justin H - Gordon, Melvin LAC RB
1.07 James Brimacombe - Jones, Julio ATL WR
1.08 John Lee - Evans, Mike TBB WR
1.09 Simon Shepherd - Freeman, Devonta ATL RB
1.10 Chris Feery - Thomas, Michael NOS WR
1.11 Phil Alexander - Nelson, Jordy GBP WR
1.12 David Dodds - Green, A.J. CIN WR
Jordy Nelson - The guys I would have been comfortable drafting with my first pick were all gone by 1.07, leaving me to decide between a second tier running back (likely LeSean McCoy), A.J. Green, and Nelson. I stayed true to my rankings and went with Nelson, who finished less than a point behind Antonio Brown for the PPR wide receiver scoring crown last season. Nelson posted elite WR1 numbers (> 19 points per game) eight times in 2016, which tied Brown and Odell Beckham for the league lead. Besides the addition of Martellus Bennett, there weren’t any significant offseason personnel changes in the Green Bay passing game. Nelson seems locked into his team leading 24% target market share from a season ago, and the knee injury that washed out his 2015 is now another full year behind him. MFL ADP has Green going six spots ahead of Nelson, which shouldn’t be the case. One guy is tied to Aaron Rodgers and a perennial top-5 offense, the other to Andy Dalton and a questionable offensive line that may have trouble providing enough time for downfield routes to develop. Give me Nelson, who has finished no lower than WR3 in his last two healthy seasons.
David Johnson - Despite what I just wrote about Green, Dodds got nice value landing him four spots below his current ADP. On a per game basis, Green’s production was right there with Julio Jones’ and Odell Beckham’s a season ago. But any time Johnson doesn’t go with the first overall pick in the draft, he’ll get my vote for best value. If he hadn’t rushed for a single yard last season, Johnson still would have finished as a top-20 running back (and top-30 wide receiver) in PPR leagues. Simply stated, Johnson is the best player in fantasy football and if you have the opportunity to get him on your team, you must take it.
Ezekiel Elliott - This isn’t a knock on Elliott or his fantasy prospects, but Justin taking him over Johnson and LeVeon Bell was egregious. As good as Johnson was through the air last season, Bell was better. His 6.25 receptions per game were topped only by Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, and Green in 2016. In fact, Bell was a better fantasy scorer on a per game basis than Johnson was last season. If not for injury and suspension concerns, Bell would be the no brainer top player in fantasy. Taking Elliott over two players who provide such an unfair advantage didn't add up to me, so I asked Justin for his reasoning:
“Johnson and Elliott are equal to me, but I give Zeke a slight advantage because the offense is more likely to repeat what they did last year. Arizona makes me nervous. Bell's injury history makes me nervous as well. If Elliott gets a little more involved in the passing game (a likely scenario in my opinion), he's the top running back. I understand it's super risky to pass on Johnson and Bell, but Elliott did finish as RB2 in PPR leagues last year despite not getting the same treatment as a receiver. I love Johnson, but fear he's coming back to earth this year (still think he finished top five). 20 touchdowns is not happening again.”
Justin is one of my favorite fantasy writers, so I don’t want it to seem like I’m picking on him here, but I refuse to buy what he’s selling on Elliott for a number of reasons.
Is the Dallas offense really more likely to repeat what they did last year than Arizona? The strength of the Cowboys remains their offensive line, but with Doug Free retiring and Ronald Leary landing with the Broncos in free agency, they suddenly have depth issues up front. Dak Prescott had a historic rookie season, but the Cowboys will play a first place schedule this year and Prescott has to prove he can replicate his success against tougher competition, after opposing defensive coordinators have had a full offseason to gameplan for him. For what it’s worth, Vegas set the over/under for Cowboys wins at 9.5 after they won 13 games last season, which insinuates regression for the team as a whole.
Why hope Elliott will get more involved as a receiver, when we already know Johnson or Bell will absolutely anchor their team’s respective passing attacks?
Elliott finished as the cumulative RB2 in PPR scoring as a rookie, but my goal is to win as many weeks as possible. Johnson had a staggering nine games with more than 25 PPR fantasy points last season. Elliott had only four.
Why can’t Johnson score 20 touchdowns again? He’s in rare company as a touchdown maker through two years in the league. Check out the names on the short list of running backs in NFL history to score 30 or more total touchdowns through their first two NFL seasons. Even if another 20 is asking a lot, how many other backs are you confidently penciling in for 15+?