In a perfect fantasy world, my starting lineup this season would feature Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, A.J. Green and Rob Gronkowski. That would be the same perfect world in which my teenagers never argue with me, Scarlett Johansson stalks me and my six-car garage can’t accommodate my Lamborghini collection.
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 Foster, McCoy, Rodgers or Ray Rice. 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 2012 Perfect Draft, we select…
Round 1. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots. I hate passing up Megatron, but if we don’t take an elite QB here, we may not get another shot. Other top-notch receivers will be available in the third round, but the primo passers could be long gone by our next pick. Prefer Drew Brees over Brady? You’ll get no argument from me.
Round 2. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. Several solid RB options will be available here, including Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson. Murray has looked the strongest since returning from his ankle injury and he should get off to a blazing start to compensate for the Cowboys’ wounded receiving corps.
Round 3. Greg Jennings, WR, Packers. We should have our choice of several elite receivers in this round, including Welker and A.J. Green. Rodgers’ favorite target is a worthy anchor for our WR corps.
Round 4. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. Atlanta’s workhorse can still break the big one, and he’s money at the goal-line.
Round 5. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers. Philip Rivers’ go-to receiver is back at 100 percent and will once again vie for top honors at his position.
Round 6. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals. He’ll be Cincinnati’s lead back and, given the modest competition, could perform like a workhorse. The Law Firm is poised to have the best season of his career.
Round 7. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers. Thanks to Mike Wallace’s holdout, Brown is getting invaluable reps with Ben Roethlisberger. Look for a significant increase in production, especially TDs, now that he’s starting from Day One.
Round 8. Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens. The second-year speedster will be Joe Flacco’s favorite target this season. Anquan Boldin is on the decline, while Smith’s arrow is pointing sky high.
Round 9. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints. A knee injury kept Ingram from fulfilling his first-round promise last season. He’s healthy now and will be leaned upon heavily, especially in the red zone.
Round 10. Titus Young, WR, Lions. He’s no Megatron, but the freakishly talented Young offers a world of upside. If the budding star can put his maturity issues behind him, he’ll help form one of the most lethal receiving tandems on the planet.
Round 11. Ryan Williams, RB, Cardinals. The explosive rusher will get every opportunity to supplant injury-prone Beanie Wells as the starter. His stock has been rising steadily all preseason.
Round 12. Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens. If Matt Schaub slides here, we’ll grab him. Otherwise, Flacco should serve us well during Brady’s bye (Week 9 vs. Cleveland).
Round 13. Packers defense/special teams. The playmaking defense delivers an abundance of turnovers, and Randall Cobb is a threat to take it to the house on every return.
Round 14. Jared Cook, TE, Titans. If he and Jake Locker pick up where they left off at the end of the 2011 season, Cook could be in for a breakout year. He’s big, fast and arguably among the most talented TEs in the league.
Round 15. Danny Amendola, WR, Rams. He enjoys great chemistry with Sam Bradford and holds extra value in point-per-reception leagues.
Round 16. Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos. The rookie is in line to be the primary backup to Willis McGahee, one of the least-secure starting tailbacks in the league. Hillman has drawn comparisons to the multi-talented Darren Sproles, so his ceiling is high with Peyton Manning under center.
Round 17. Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys. Several kickers are viable options, but Bailey is a deadly accurate kicker for a high-octane offense.
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.