What is Upside Down Drafting?
If you're new to the Upside Down Draft Strategy (UDD) and it's the first time you've read about this topic, you've stumbled into the middle of the story. Begin here for the basics or go here for a more exhaustive look.
Normally, I endorse waiting until the fifth round to take a running back. This year, there's enough non-running back talent in the fifth round, that it's worth considering a runner in the fourth round, and taking two non-running backs between your block of runners during rounds 5-10.
Now that we're caught up, let's look at the mid-round PPR backs that I endorse for this year's UDD Strategy.
This list will not be a comprehensive look at every running back. If you want to know my thoughts on each player, read the comments in my rankings. If you're thinking, "I'm going to email or Tweet Matt and ask him, 'what about [insert name of back not listed below that you maybe-possibly-kinda like]?'" it will be nice to hear from you but I'll still tell you to read the comments in my rankings.
If I have any major updates to my preferred list of mid-round backs, I'll keep you posted weekly in subsequent Gut Checks.
THE GUT CHECK'S PREFERRED MID-ROUND (4TH-10TH) RUNNERS
I'm listing two or three runners per round as well as an extra runner that is worth reaching for if both of the prescribed backs in those rounds are gone. In italics are one or two non-runners in each round I value. I called it my Non-RB Exception. I've found that using one round between the 5-10 block for a non-runner strengthens the balance of the team. This is based on PPR formats with 12 teams.
If you land at least five of these backs by the 10th round you should have a solid start to your Upside Down Draft. ADP is based on PPR leagues because PPR formats are well tailored for Upside Down Drafts.
I recommend all the names listed, but the underlined players are my favorites. In some cases, I've underlined two players in the same round so if you aren't enamored with the list from the previous or following rounds, you have my permission (if you need it for some weird reason) to reach for one to land multiple underlined guys. However, don't take that underline as a reason to fixate on the player, the strategy is about casting a wide net on a block of backs.
This year, labeling the list so you can think of your draft in dimensions of risk friendliness:
- High floor, high upside (potential top-5 player at the position and no worse than a low-end starter.
- High floor, medium upside (no worse than a low-end starter with upside as low-end QB1/RB1/WR1/TE1).
- Medium floor, high upside (no worse than high-end flex with top-5 position potential).
- Medium floor, medium upside (no worse than high-end flex with low-end every-week starter upside).
- Low floor, high upside (strong boom-bust element with non-starter floor and top-5 upside).
There are also symbols next to some players to help you understand where you should consider transcending ADP values to maximize your values independent of the herd mentality:
- (↑) - I'd take this player one round above his listing so I can pick another player from that listed round.
- (↓) - I'd rather see if this player slides to the round below his listing.
- (†) - Only if none of the other players are on this list
- (υ) - If he wasn't undervalued by ADP, I'd probably take him one round above his listing to ensure he's available. Priority pick in this round.
In at least four of these six rounds (and I recommend five) you want to take running backs. If you've been using this strategy in the past or you feel comfortable doing so, you may also consider taking fewer runners from this block if you feel strong enough about 1-2 of the backs listed after round 10.
RB Block: Rounds 4-10 (Consider using two Picks for WR/TE/QB)
*"F" = The player's potential floor.
* "U" = The player's potential upside.
*"High" = Top 15 at the position. "Medium" = Top 24. "Low" = Top 48 or worse.
High F - High U
High F - Med. U
Med. F - High U
Med. F - Med. U
Low F - High U
Lamar Miller (†)
Ronald Jones II II (†)
Nick Chubb (↓)
Jared Goff (υ)
There are numerous ways to approach this list, including the recommendation of six rookies and four sets of players on the same depth chart. I'm not intentionally recommending handcuffs; it's a by-product of players I like for their talent and there will be more potential handcuffs recommended for the available players after the 10th round.
PROFILING THE 5-10 BLOCK
Round Four (In order of preference)
If Kenneth Dixon isn't healthy enough to compete for playing time this summer, Collins will be an even safer choice because the Ravens have a superior offensive line, upgrades at wide receiver, and the disruptive potential Lamar Jackson could bring to the ground game if he replaces Joe Flacco early in the season. Jackson has the wheels for the Ravens to use the triple option the way Buffalo and Houston have in recent seasons and it's a great way of dictating the ground game to the defense. Even if Jackson doesn't play extensively this year, Collins is a bargain in an offense that has the linemen and philosophical bent to pound the ball.
Aside from the potential off-field component to McCoy's 2018 season, the Bills didn't address the loss of three starting-caliber offensive linemen this off-season and it's likely that Josh Allen — a rookie with questionable decision-making — will see extensive playing time this year. McCoy's drop in value for these reasons alone is appropriate — and his ADP is plummeting well beyond this spot, which my mock drafts will show. However, McCoy could very well deliver in PPR leagues as that Marshall Faulk-like check-down helper a confused Allen playing the rookie Peyton Manning role.
Faulk earned 2,227 yards from scrimmage during Manning's first season. Allen is less likely to figure things out as fast as Manning so expecting McCoy to earn 86 catches and 908 yards in the receiving is unrealistic.
However, a career year of 60-70 catches for 500-600 yards is within the realm of possibility. He won't be as efficient as years past, but he's still an excellent running back who showed last year that he could deliver top-10 fantasy production in a struggling offense as a boom-bust, high-volume producer.
This is presuming that he plays an entire year. If he doesn't, he'll likely play during the first month, which could still make him a worthwhile pick in the eighth or ninth round as a highly productive placeholder until Mark Ingram II returns.
It may seem like a waste of resources but remember, you're drafting a block of runners to mix and match. If your team field one consistent starting runner and kills it at the other positions, it doesn't matter if you patchwork your backs.
If the Eagles made Ajayi the feature back, he'd be at the top of the list because of his talent and the Philadelphia offensive line. Ajay is readying himself for that opportunity and he'll certainly earn more than the 10 touches per game the staff gave him after he was acquired in a trade with Miami.
He's probably a safer pick than McCoy, but McCoy's high-volume upside as a mop-up PPR producer is more a little more enticing when selecting the first back of your block of backs. The gap between the first four backs isn't wide enough to argue against Ajayi as a priority pick in this round.
Marvin Jones Jr is one of the most underrated fantasy options in drafts for the past two years. He's a great route runner, excels at the catch point, and he's the preferred intermediate and deep option for Matthew Stafford.
If you haven't watched Stafford before, understand that the Lions quarterback is not afraid of targeting receivers against tight coverage who've proven they can win the ball. Jones is one of those options and a great reason why you could target Rob Gronowski or Travis Kelce in the second or third rounds and still land a top-flight fantasy receiver who earns no respect as one in the fantasy community.
Henry is only recommended if no other back is available and Jones is gone. The Titans have a decent line and there's a lot of trust among the fantasy community that a new coaching staff will get this offense on track.
However, Marcus Mariota is getting a pass from a lot of fantasy analysts for his poor play last year and some of it had little to do with the scheme. Dion Lewis is a real threat to usurp even more volume than projected due to the likelihood of bad game scripts due to the defense's woes and Mariota's play.
- Russell Wilson
- Tom Brady
- Mark Ingram II
- Dion Lewis
- Sammy Watkins
- Jimmy Graham
- Royce Freeman
- Lamar Miller
- Ronald Jones II II
If you want to follow the UDD Strategy to the letter, Wilson or Brady are the best choices here. Early-round quarterback is no longer cool so the likelihood of multiple owners clamoring from one of these two quarterbacks earlier than their ADP is less likely than before.
Wilson and Brady are among the safest quarterbacks in fantasy football, and you don't have to worry about getting caught on the wrong end of a quarterback run that occurs between rounds 8-10 that can trip up those hoping the position leaves the board. While there are quality backs listed here, they aren't irreplaceable.
Ingram won't lose his job to Kamara or to any other player on this depth chart. The only reason to fear him is injury due to a suspension-related layoff. Lewis is an easy selection here because the Titans defense will have to be a lot better than it looks for Tennessee to pound Derrick Henry as often as they hope in theory.
If you didn't take Jones because you got one of the fourth-round runners other than Henry, Watkins is an excellent fit with a top-24 fantasy floor at his position and top-12 upside. If you didn't draft Kelce or Gronkowski, Graham is a value because the fantasy community has bought that idea that he's slowed down so much that he's no longer a top tight end. Expect 8-12 touchdowns from Graham this year.
Freeman has the skills and offense to deliver the best production of any rookie back from this rich class. Because Devontae Booker enters training camp as the starter, it would be better if you could wait for one more round and take him in the sixth.
Miller is fantasy football's 40-degree day. Paraphrasing the inimitable Stringer Bell from The Wire, no one gets excited about a 40-degree day. If you haven't taken a running back and Miller is the only one of two left on the list, he's serviceable.
There's good reason to be a Jones fan, but there's no evidence that the Buccaneers line will be good enough to help Jones play to his ability. Peyton Barber is also playing well enough to remain the lead back to start the year.
If you didn't take Jones and Watkins falls to the sixth round, he's a must-pick here if you led off with two backs or selected Guice and one of the fifth-round quarterbacks. This especially true if your seventh-round pick is at the early turn near the end of the sixth round and matches up with Cohen being available there.
Cohen has a strong opportunity to earn a role similar to Tyreek Hill in the Bears offense, which makes his upside too good to pass up if you already took a safe back like Guice or Collins early. Cohen is a big-play option who might lack some of the desirable week-to-week consistency of many fantasy second-tier fantasy running back starters, but if he earns Hill-like volume, he could deliver the best of both worlds.
Coleman is the safest pick on this board if you already have a tight end. He earns red zone opportunities and he's a skilled receiver in an offense that has a good offensive line and balanced production.
Coleman also has top-15 upside if Devonta Freeman gets hurt. If you're simply looking for safe fantasy running back starters within the spirit of UDD because you've loaded up on elite receivers and tight ends, Coleman is the choice if you already took Jones or Watkins earlier.
If Michel plays to his ability and the Patriots use him commensurate with the value of a first-round pick, he could be the first back in New England to earn a full-time workload in several years. Michel's has every skill required of a runner to do the job with the exception of shaky ball security. If this weren't an issue, he'd be a priority UDD selection.
If you decided to pick Aaron Rodgers at the top of the third round and you need a top tight end, Engram is a solid choice but his ADP has enough volatility that he might not be available this late. It's not worth planning this phase of your drafts with Engram available here. If he falls and you're in a position to capitalize, then by all means.
- Marshawn Lynch
- Tarik Cohen
- Kerryon Johnson
- Duke Johnson Jr
- Emmanuel Sanders
- Cooper Kupp
- Carlos Hyde
- Rex Burkhead
- Jamison Crowder
Lynch still has it, but the fantasy community is so fearful of taking an older running back that they won't give the tape any credence. Lynch is an exceptional player who remains a viable starter with top-15 fantasy upside behind a solid offensive line, and a coach who wants to run the ball this year so much, that he acquired Doug Martin as a redundancy option to spell Lynch.
Cohen is a fine upside selection if available here. Kerryon Johnson potentially earns a caliber of an offensive line that no Detroit Lions back has seen in several years and he's a load-carrying back with versatility. In a vacuum, there's not much of a talent gap between Johnson and Guice. However, Johnson has healthy and viable competition for playing time on his depth chart that could render him a part-time starter. He's often available one round later.
If you weren't buying the love for Jones or Watkins enough to take them this early, Sanders is an excellent bargain version of both players. He's a tremendous route runner who will mesh with Case Keenum and earn a lot of single coverage.
Brandin Cooks isn't a one-on-one receiver of value unless he's a yard or two ahead of his coverage and running under the football in the deep game. He's not in Watkins' league as a red zone option. Kupp was a high-volume red zone option last year and in college. He should see at least a similar amount of targets and convert more of them.
If you're buying the Cleveland ground game, and the line and quarterback are good enough to seriously consider it, Hyde has the talent to be a top-15 fantasy runner. He'll likely get pushed out by Chubb and Duke Johnson Jr by season's end but if you take him as an early-season producer to counter the suspension of Mark Ingram II, you could get value from Hyde without counting on him all year.
Burkhead is a fantasy analyst favorite in a backfield with at least three viable options. The difference between New England and Cleveland in this respect is that the Browns have a coaching staff with a history of leaning towards using 1-2 backs, at most.
The Patriots seem content with using a trio of runners and matching them up against specific schemes. The only back with the upside to nail down the feature role in New England without an injury is Michel.
Crowder is an ultra-safe pick because Alex Smith — as good as he was last year as a vertical thrower in an offense that set him up for unprecedented success — is more likely to regress a bit closer to the first 12 years of his career as a high-volume check-down thrower. He has sneaky upside as a high-volume option and there's not much of a gap between him and Kupp. It wouldn't be outlandish to flip-flop the order of Kupp and Crowder.
Crowell is a better talent than many give credit because they don't account for the Browns' woes that created difficult game scripts and hemmed in Crowell's potential as a featured runner. Still, his upside is limited because he'll be splitting time with Bilal Powell and perhaps Elijah McGuire if McGuire's foot injury doesn't pose problem throughout the season.
The Jets have an offensive line with the potential to develop cohesion and improve as the season progresses. Crowell also has good hands but hasn't earned opportunities as a receiver. He's earning those chances in training camp.
Woods is another underrated receiver who could easily lead the Rams in catches and yardage this year. Jared Goff is a talented quarterback paired with a good offensive mind in Sean McVay. Expect Woods, Cooks, and Kupp to earn fantasy production this year — meaning Goff is a serious fantasy target for those who wish to wait on drafting a quarterback.
With Derrius Guice out for the year Chris Thompson is worth a look in PPR leagues even though he may not be completely healthy until November. Due to the late-round ADP of Samaje Perine and Rob Kelly's recent absence from 20-round drafts, it's difficult to pinpoint who will earn the two-down looks. Bet on Kelly, but it's still a fluid situation and could be a tight competition.
If Anderson gets Teddy Bridgewater or Josh McCown as his starter, he's vastly underrated at this point. If Sam Darnold earns the job at some point, Anderson's value will become a lot more volatile. Darnold doesn't read coverage disguises well at this stage and as creative as he is when the play breaks down, he misses scripted opportunities because his footwork forces him out of rhythm with his secondary and tertiary routes.
In terms of talent, Chubb is the most underrated rookie running back in this class if you're judging his talent proportionate to his current fantasy value. However, his fantasy value is accurate until he earns the starting job in Cleveland. If you believe talent rises to the top, Chubb is the obvious pick this late and worth the risk of Hyde and Johnson commanding the majority of touches this year. His value is volatile enough that he is sometimes available 3-5 rounds later.
Anderson is a good runner who can succeed behind a bad line. He lacks Chubb's upside but might be a safer pick. The problem in Carolina will be red zone touches that Cam Newton often commands.
Again, if you're seeking safety over upside because you've built a studly lineup of receivers, tight ends, and quarterback, then Anderson might be the play. However, try to diversify your running back selections with at least 1-2 picks with high upside.
If you've waited on a quarterback, Stafford offers top-5 fantasy upside at his position behind an improved offensive line and a talented supporting cast of receivers. It's also better to begin a run than end it and if Stafford falls to you and the wait-on-a-quarterback strategy is happening your league, you're getting a solid value.
Neither Nelson nor Hurns are sexy picks but both are skilled route runners who can play multiple positions and have better vertical prowess than credited. Both are a little riskier than the receivers listed in the earlier routes but if you've waited and stocked up on running backs early, they're worth consideration.
The prevailing view of Goff outside Los Angeles and NFL players is that head coach Sean McVay is a football Cyrano De Bergerac and Goff is the stiff that merely looks the part. This perception couldn't be more inaccurate. Goff has the pocket presence of a Pro Bowl quarterback and finally has the offensive line and receiving corps to thrive. He's a value who is worth considering a round earlier if you fear a quarterback run is coming.
Mahomes has even more upside than Goff and could post ridiculous production this year. His daring in the middle of the field could lead to a high interception rate, but he's capable of several high-yardage, multiple-touchdown weeks. If you've been waiting on quarterbacks Goff and Mahomes are the two worth taking.
Hines gets a ton of love as a sleeper fantasy pick due to his speed and receiving skill. However, Jordan Wilkins offers potential as a three-down starter. If you take Hines, handcuff him with Wilkins. The Colts line should improve as guard Quentin Nelson acclimates to the pros. It won't take long.
If you can pinpoint the Washington co-starter alongside Thompson and wait until rounds 12-15 to nab him, do so. If not, a 10th-round pick isn't a crazy spot despite the lack of ADP data to support it.
Bernard won't earn an automatic split with Joe Mixon this year but he's good enough to earn three-down work if Mixon gets hurt or struggles. At this point, it's wise to consider backs who can catch and block. Bernard is the best PPR back available not slated to earn the volume that his talent deserves. That outlook changes dramatically with one unfortunate moment to Mixon.
RB BLOCK: ROUNDS 11-20 (CONSIDER USING 5-6 Picks FOR DEF/K/WR/TE/QB)
There are also several backs I like with ADPs well after the 10th round that you should consider taking after you pick your block of backs. Depending on the ADP of the other position options you're considering, you may find it worthwhile to reach for some of these options so you can get who you want elsewhere.
*"F" = The player's potential floor.
* "U" = The player's potential upside.
*"High" = Top 15 at the position. "Medium" = Top 24. "Low" = Top 48 or worse.
Med. F - High U
Med. F - Med. U
Low F - High U
T.J. Yeldon (↑)
Jordan Wilkins (↑)
Preferred picks Between rounds 11-20
If Goff is still here, he's worth taking unless you already have two quarterbacks. Martin offers a compelling alternative because contrary to statistical opinion, he's not a step slower and he's in a good situation to thrive if his handcuff status is activated. Riddick is a safe PPR option who should not lose his role while Johnson and Blount compete for two-down work.
If Seattle's line improves, Carson could earn two-down work. However, Seattle seems bent on using a committee. Clement showed comfort on the field as a rookie and can run strong between the tackles.
If healthy, Meredith with Drew Brees is a great opportunity. So far, he's practicing without limitations. Richardson is the safer pick as a player and offers greater big-play upside if Alex Smith can remain aggressive in Washington. However, Meredith has the safer quarterback for fantasy points.
If new about Bryant remains relatively quiet in training camp, he might be available one round later. If not, he's worth a flier here because the Raiders should have a balanced and productive offense under Jon Gruden. Breida does what he's supposed to when he earns a crease.
Bryant could easily be the best value among the trio of starting receivers in Oakland. Powell is a safe pick who can be the third-down back or the every-down option. He's likely the common denominator who earns time regardless of Crowell and McGuire in this three-headed backfield. Murray is a capable every-down option in a balanced offense if Dalvin Cook gets hurt.
If Blount falls here and you were all-in on Bryant, then take Blount now. If you're not in on Bryant, take Blount as the top priority in the 13th round. He's still quick enough, strong enough, and savvy enough to deliver top-15 fantasy production if the opportunity presents itself.
Miller has more fans than Cole, but Cole will be in an enviable position as a vertical slot option on a team that will help him earn great mismatches. Although Miller has excellent upside, his rapport with Mitchell Trubisky is a greater question mark.
If you need another back and Blount is gone, consider Yeldon in the 14th.
Yeldon performed well last year when called upon and he has every-down upside behind a team that is built well for the run game. He also has a little more PPR upside than Leonard Fournette.
Dixon has top-15 starter talent but he won't earn an opportunity in Baltimore to prove it without an injury to Collins. He's an excellent handcuff due to the Ravens line and his upside.
If you're drafting players against the trends, might as well take one of the top kickers obscenely early. However, if you're willing to wait until the 18th round for a kicker, Barber is an underrated back.
Only 24 years old and already in his third year, Barber cut his weight from 238 pounds to 225 pounds and looks quicker in camp. He already played with excellent vision and balance, and he's a good receiver.
Jones will get his chance to earn the lead role in Tampa Bay at some point, but Barber has enough skills to make it a bigger struggle than most realize. Considering the difficulties that the Buccaneers offensive line have encountered the past two years, Barber is the savvier option and better value.
Ware is only days away from getting cleared for contact and looks good enough to earn the No. 2 running back spot in a dynamic offense with a sound offensive line. If Kareem Hunt gets hurt, Ware can deliver a 1,300-yard season.
Most will opt for the rookie Wilkins ahead of Gore, but the Dolphins have a decent offensive line and Gore still has what it takes to post top-20 fantasy production at his position if Kenyan Drake gets hurt. Kallen Ballege is not a threat this year.
Wilkins reminded me of a combination of Arian Foster and Matt Forte when I scouted him. He also reminded Colts GM Chris Ballard of Forte. With a real shot of earning the starting job for the Colts, Wilkins might be the best upside play of the trio of backs in this round. His pass protection hasn't been tested yet, so it's safer to opt for Ware and Gore because even if Wilkins earns the starting job, it's likely a rotation instead of a featured role.
If these backs are gone and you need a player, Godwin is a polished option who can deliver at multiple positions and will earn enough playing time to be a fantasy factor for weeks at a time in Tampa Bay.
If one of the players from above falls, take him. If you need a kicker, get a jump on the competition. Otherwise, Perine could still be a nice option as a late handcuff to Guice.
Remember when Le'Veon Bell wasn't a good running back because of his paltry yards-per-carry average as a rookie behind a beat-up offensive line? How about the year when Todd Gurley was exposed as a fraud during his second season behind a struggling offensive line?
Perine lacks Bell and Gurley's dynamic athletic ability but he's a solid runner who worked behind a tattered line last year. When healthy, Washington's line is a strong unit. If Guice gets hurt, scoff at Perine at your own risk.
Pettis was my No. 1 pre-draft talent at wide receiver in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. He's shining early on in camp and can play all three positions on the field. One injury will vault him into a starting role that might be difficult to hand back to the rehabbed player.
Brown has always been capable but can he stay healthy? In this case, Gould might be the best choice of the two.
Coutee might be a better option than Pettis in the 19th round if he earns the No. 3 role in Houston. Jackson is a high-upside, potentially league-winning play because of athletic ability to post huge numbers for fantasy leagues.
Pryor played with a bad ankle until opting for surgery and it was clear that the injury disrupted his concentration. If he's healthy, he could work opposite Robby Anderson.
Rod Smith would earn a good offensive line and a lot of touches if Ezekiel Elliot gets hurt. Justin Jackson is currently the fourth back on the Chargers depth chart behind Russell Hansbrough but he's making plays during his first week.
Head coach Anthony Lynn said, “(Justin Jackson) has eyes on the side of his head. He has really good instincts, and there’s no wonder he has so many yards over his career because he can find the soft spot in a defense, and I like that about him. I think he can win his one-on-ones. We’ll see though.”
Prosise will have a role as a third-down back if he stays healthy and has every-down upside if called upon. He won't be without 2-3 backs getting hurt in Seattle.
Here are mocks from draft spots at the top, middle, and end. From the top, it makes sense to consider an elite running back and that's what we'll do in this example to show how it plays out. Note: These mocks were conducted with Derrius Guice still a top option for this strategy. I've added in bold type how I would have adjusted in these mocks.
From the Top...
Thoughts: I often go with Antonio Brown first overall in PPR drafts regardless of strategy but for the sake of this article, I opted for Gurley. Looking at the results, I would have preferred Brown but I love the balance I got from this approach. Thielen, Jones, and Watkins all have top-15 potential and two of these three were WR1 last year. If they repeat, this team looks great when adding Kelce and Wilson to the equation.
The backs I landed were better than I expected. When McCoy's value dropped due to the off-field investigation, the eighth-round price tag was too good to pass up because he'll likely play at least until Ingram returns. Getting Johnson one round later and handcuffing him with Blount was also satisfying.
Although Jones, Watkins, Richardson, and Bryant all seem like big-play options with a potential issue with weekly consistency, I'm confident Jones and Watkins won't have that problem this year. I can see Bryant blossoming into a top-20 producer with reliability as a third receiver in a lineup if needed.
Meredith and Miller offer high-volume potential as hybrid slot options. The Saints staff already told the media this week that Meredith gives the team what it has been lacking ever since Marques Colston retired. Miller has impressed early and will play multiple spots. Pettis is my big-play cut and I could have taken Coutee.
This is definitely a Waldman team and I'd be thrilled to roll with it − especially when I can get good starting backs and even go for upside with Johnson, Chubb, and Wilkins. I never thought I'd land that combination and have Todd Gurley.
As you can see, I only opted for one tight end. I'll play the waiver wire for a good matchup in Week 12 — and there will be plenty at that point of the year.
From the Middle
I'm equally thrilled with my team from the sixth spot.
Thoughts: Antonio Brown is my top player in PPR, so landing in here is a value. Following up with A.J. Green as a second receiver is something I'd be thrilled with in most drafts but the fact that Michael Thomas was one pick away from falling to me as my second option would have been even more exciting. I also seriously considered Rob Gronkowski at this point but Kelce is my top option and to get him one round later was an easy choice.
The 4-10 block worked out pretty well. Guice, Watkins, and Cohen were easy picks. I did consider Jay Ajayi where I took Watkins but didn't think Watkins would return to me. In hindsight, I could have taken Ajayi and opted for Emmanuel Sanders one round later and bypassed Cohen. With Guice injured, I would have taken Ajayi and it fits well with my original thoughts below.
Considering that I got the Lynch-Martin tandem, and McCoy, I can see the value of taking Ajayi-Sanders over Watkins-Cohen because it's a safer combination. I'd probably do it that way in half of my drafts if they unfolded this way.
I got excited about the idea of landing Goff and Patrick Mahomes until I realized that shared the same bye week. Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers were still on the board after landing Goff (and I considered taking Mahomes before Goff but like the stability of the Rams) but I also saw Andrew Luck sitting there and wondered if I could wait for another round with Martin available and it worked out.
This is likely the latest Luck will be available all month.
Edelman was a tougher choice than I thought with Calvin Ridley available, but I opted for the veteran who could deliver top-15 production when he returns. Meredith, Bryant, Miller, and Pettis fit my late-round strategy. I was a little surprised that Chubb fell to the 14th round, but it makes sense when considering the Browns are a backfield trio. Still, I'll gladly take him this late.
This is another team I'd be thrilled with and if you're new to this annual article, I haven't always felt this way.
From the Back
This is typically my favorite spot to draft and while I like this team the least of the three, I'm still pleased with the overall result. If the talent stays healthy, it's as promising as the other two squads.
Thoughts: No complaints about landing Odell Beckham Jr, Jr. and Michael Thomas back-to-back. While Kelce left the board before I could land him in the third round and Jimmy Graham fall nearly far enough, it meant targeting Jordan Reed at an ADP that fit my draft spot. It meant that Wilson, Guice, and Ajayi were all available and it's a good haul to land a pair of priority backs behind quality offensive lines. Collins is an easy substitute for Guice here.
Watkins is a common player in all of my drafts and Lynch's ADP appears to be rising after Jon Gruden did the media showbiz routine on him. I thought he might be available in the eighth, but it's clear he's a sixth- or seventh-round option.
Following Lynch with Anderson and landing Martin was easy enough, but it cost me a shot at quarterbacks I usually target during rounds 9-11. However, this is why I opted for Wilson early, so I didn't have to gauge that positional run. Instead, I happily scooped up Case Keenum for my bye week.
With this spot, I could take Edelman and Ridley and still take upside with Bryant, Coutee, and Terrelle Pryor in the final rounds. I seriously considered Pettis again, but I believe Pryor's injury as the problem and he told the media on the first of August that he hasn't felt this good since he was in Cleveland.
Chubb, once again, ostensibly fell to the 14th round. I could have taken Blount in the 16th but felt sentimental about Spencer Ware and like the proven offense so I switched it up thanks to the depth I already have at the position.
This is the best I've felt about using UDD in a few years. Ironically, it's the year everyone says it's not a good idea.
Which means it's probably the best time to do it.
The contrarian life is something else, isn't it?
More articles from Matt WaldmanSee all
The Replacements Week 16
The Gut Check No.530: David Montgomery's 2020 Growth Spurt
The Top 10: Week 16