In a perfect fantasy world, my starting lineup this season would feature Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Greg Jennings and Antonio Gates. That would be the same perfect world in which my teenagers admit I’m always right, Mila Kunis stalks me and snow would start falling in Dallas today.
Alas, since our fellow owners are unlikely to 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 soar 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 multiple fantasy sites to determine the best pick in each round – resulting in my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious 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 snake format, meaning we won’t have a shot at Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. Finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.
Now, with the fifth pick of the 2011 Perfect Draft, we select…
Round 1. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. Worries about his holdout have pushed Johnson’s ADP into the middle of the first round. Frankly, if you can get him here, you can’t pass him up. Johnson could return at a moment’s notice; but even if you have to suffer a Week 1 “bye,” he’s worth it. In point-per-reception leagues, I’m thrilled with LeSean McCoy here, too.
Round 2. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. For years, Jackson’s production has been limited by the sorry offense surrounding him. But that’s changing. Sure, I hate missing out on Jennings or Hakeem Nicks; but this backfield will pack a wallop.
Round 3. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers. It’s nearly impossible to win a fantasy title without an elite quarterback, and Rivers could vie for top honors this season. It’s remarkable to me that he consistently falls into the mid- to late-third round.
Round 4. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs. Bowe gets the nod over Mike Williams simply due to his longer track record. He’s not my ideal WR1, but another year like 2010 would change all that.
Round 5. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints. Yes, I’m taking my third RB before my second WR. The talent pool at tailback drops off significantly after this round, while second-tier wideouts remain plentiful. Ingram will be a scoring machine in the Saints’ offense.
Round 6. Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens. With Lee Evans keeping opposing defenses honest, Boldin has a good chance to rebound from his disappointing inaugural season in Baltimore.
Round 7. Austin Collie, WR, Colts. Though I’m getting nervous about Peyton Manning’s timetable, I’m still convinced that Collie will be his most potent weapon this season. The wideout is an injury risk, but the reward is elite production.
Round 8. Owen Daniels, TE, Texans. I’d love to take Josh Freeman here, but tight end is a higher priority. Daniels is Matt Schaub’s favorite security blanket, and he should return to elite form if he can just stay healthy. Thanks to his Week 11 bye, we can pickup another TE off waivers later.
Round 9. Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets. My preseason pick for “Comeback Player of the Year” could quickly become Mark Sanchez’s most reliable red zone target.
Round 10. Eagles, D/ST. I’m buying the “Dream Team” hype. An already-stout defense added top-line talent up-front and in the secondary, which should lead to an abundance of sacks and turnovers. We’ll also cash in on DeSean Jackson’s special teams heroics.
Round 11. Lance Moore, WR, Saints. He could rival Marques Colston (knee) as the lead receiver in this pass-happy offense. Moore’s preseason groin injury should be fully healed by Week 1.
Round 12. Jacoby Ford, WR, Raiders. I know I’m sounding like a broken record, but Ford is the only receiver worth owning in Oakland. He is an explosive playmaker who also contributes in the return game. If only he had a better quarterback.
Round 13. Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets. Kyle Orton represents outstanding value here, but he shares a bye week with Rivers. The Jets face the Dolphins at home on Monday night in Week 6; so we’ll take our chances with Sanchez and pray that Rivers stays upright all season.
Round 14. Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars. Since Maurice Jones-Drew is on my personal do-not-draft list, I’m grabbing Jennings before MJD’s owner can. Call it an educated guess, or just a hunch, that Jones-Drew’s knee problems finally catch up to him this season. Jennings is waiting for his opportunity to soar.
Round 15. Javon Ringer, RB, Titans. Since I can’t be certain my first-round pick will suit up in Week 1, I’m hedging my bets with his top understudy. Unfortunately, a hip pointer leaves Ringer’s availability in doubt as well. Rookie Jamie Harper is next in line.
Round 16. Arrelious Benn, WR, Buccaneers. Every draft needs a flier, and Benn fits perfectly in that role. He’ll line up opposite 2010 rookie sensation Mike Williams, and could join him as a consistent fantasy performer thanks to Josh Freeman’s rapid development.
Round 17. Alex Henery, K, Eagles. There will be plenty of good options here, including whomever wins the Cowboys’ and Jets’ jobs. But I like the rookie’s chances of picking up where David Akers left off.
There you have it: A team with firepower at every position, bench depth with substantial upside, and no bye-week dilemmas.
Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.
NOTE: My third round of positional rankings were posted today at http://www.scribd.com/laddbiro