In a perfect world, my starting fantasy lineup this season would feature Drew Brees, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Miles Austin and Jermichael Finley. That would be the same perfect world in which my daughter rides her pet unicorn to school, Scarlett Johansson stalked me and the IRS didn’t exist.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad, right? (Hey, Scarlett, for the last time…no means no!)
If we assume, then, that our fellow owners won’t cede the entire first round to us, we’ll simply have to work smarter to assemble the most dominant team in our league. Our challenge, therefore, is to secure the best value in each round, methodically building a roster that will dominate from Week 1, withstand an injury to one or two key players, and peak during the fantasy playoffs.
With that lofty goal in mind, I’ve analyzed the average draft position (ADP) of each player from several fantasy sites to determine the best pick in each round – resulting in the oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious 2010 Perfect Draft.
As always, we start with a few key assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, and one tight end, kicker and team defense. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a zig-zag format, meaning we won’t have a shot at Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. And finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.
Now, with the fifth pick of the 2010 Fantasy Draft, we select…
Round 1. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. Frank Gore is arguably a better choice in point-per-reception (PPR) formats, but a healthy Turner is a touchdown machine and the unchallenged centerpiece of Atlanta’s offense. I hate passing on Andre Johnson and the top two gunslingers (Brees, Rodgers), but such tradeoffs are inescapable.
Round 2. Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys. Passing on an elite receiver in the first two rounds means playing catch-up the rest of your draft. Don’t do it. Austin was the third-best fantasy wideout last year despite starting just a dozen games.
Round 3. Matt Schaub, QB, Texans. It’s nearly impossible to win a fantasy title without an elite quarterback, and Schaub played his way into that company last season. If your league puts a premium on QBs, you may need to take him (or Peyton Manning) a round earlier, and pray that an elite receiver slides to you here.
Round 4. Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens. Right about now, Larry Fitzgerald is wondering what he did wrong. His prolific former teammate landed a starring role opposite one of the league’s rising stars, while Fitz must try to field errant passes from Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. The Flacco-Boldin tandem should be fun to watch, especially for Boldin’s owners.
Round 5. Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers. The run on tight ends typically begins in Round 4 with Dallas Clark. Grab Finley here, and you just might get the pick of the litter. Green Bay’s red-zone beast tops my tight end rankings, and he likely won’t last another round given the well-deserved preseason hype he and Rodgers have been garnering.
Round 6. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills. The way this electrifying rookie has performed during the preseason, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch should get comfortable watching from the sidelines. Spiller won’t relinquish the starting job once the veterans return from their injuries, and he should be in the Rookie of the Year discussion with Ryan Mathews all season.
Round 7. Arian Foster, RB, Texans. Houston’s new workhorse is vaulting up draft boards, thanks to Steve Slaton’s obvious shortcomings and the Texans’ high-scoring offense. The undrafted second-year tailback now has a stranglehold on a position that could propel him into the Top 10 ranks by season’s end.
Round 8. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles. A preseason shoulder contusion and less-than-stellar play from his new QB (Kevin Kolb) combine to make Maclin a low-risk, high-reward gamble in this round. If Pierre Garcon slides this far, though, take him instead.
Round 9. New York Jets, defense/special teams. You can hold out several rounds and hope you hit on this year’s breakout defense, or start a run here with a unit that could be among the most stifling we’ve seen in years. In this round, the Jets offer the best value.
Round 10. Robert Meachem, WR, Saints. He equaled Marques Colston's nine touchdown catches in 2009, on 25 fewer receptions. Though a healthy Lance Moore will also capture Brees’ attention, Meachem’s big-play ability makes him a worthy addition to our squad.
Round 11. Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets. With our top four wideouts in place, we have the luxury of stashing Holmes on our bench while he serves a four-game suspension. It shouldn’t take him long to mesh with Mark Sanchez and vie for a starting role in our lineup.
Round 12. Chester Taylor, RB, Bears. Matt Forte’s starting job is about as secure as the U.S. housing market. Taylor is not only a valuable handcuff, but he could prove to be the better fit for Mike Martz’s offensive scheme.
Round 13. Alex Smith, QB, 49ers. I’d rather have Chad Henne as my backup, but I don’t like his matchup (Pittsburgh) during Schaub’s bye week. Smith is another breakout candidate armed with explosive receiving weapons, and his Week 7 trip to Carolina should go well. His fantasy playoff schedule is even more tantalizing.
Round 14. Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s offense is as entertaining as a Uriah Heap cover band, but Williams is still worth a flier. The rookie has already cemented a starting job, and he will inevitably be Josh Freeman’s primary target this season. Prefer a backup tight end with upside? Dustin Keller is your man.
Round 15. Leon Washington, RB, Seahawks. He appears to be fully recovered from a severe leg injury, which makes him a legitimate contender for Seattle’s feature back role. He’ll still share carries with Justin Forsett and, possibly, Julius Jones, but Washington offers significant upside, which is what we’re looking for this late in the draft. If someone steals Washington sooner, target Larry Johnson in the 16th or 17th.
Round 16. Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans. How Jones is available this late is beyond me. The speedster is destined to overtake Kevin Walter as Houston’s No. 2 wideout, which means plenty of opportunities to soar as opposing defenses focus on stopping Andre Johnson.
Round 17. Lawrence Tynes, K, Giants. Plenty of solid options will be available here if you wait out the early run. Shayne Graham, Matt Bryant, and the winner of the Houston showdown are all worthy picks if Tynes doesn’t float your boat. Late bye weeks for all the above are an added bonus.
Et voila! This team boasts firepower at every position, bench depth with tons of upside, and no bye-week dilemmas.
Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.