Monday, August 31, 2015

Preseason column #4: The Perfect Draft: Dominate from Day One

In a perfect fantasy world, my starting lineup this season would feature Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Odell Beckham, Jr., Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. That would be the same perfect world in which every lottery ticket I buy is a winner, Kate Hudson stalks me and every time I drink a six-pack, my six-pack gets more ripped.

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 AP or Charles. 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 2015 Perfect Draft, we select…

Round 1. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. He was our “perfect” first rounder last year, and he didn’t disappoint. Beast Mode remains a formidable force on a talented, run-centric, perennial Super Bowl contender.

Round 2. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions. It’s hard to believe Megatron has been falling to the mid-second round; but if he lands in your lap, raise your hands and scream “Hallelujah!” Beckham, Jr. and Gronkowski, if they somehow slide, are even better options.

Round 3. Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens. He won’t elicit any oohs and aahs, but Forsett is an underrated workhorse in an offense that will lean heavily on the run once again. He’s money at the goal line and he’s expected to be used more in the passing game (ala Matt Forte) in Mark Trestman’s offense. If he’s gone, snag Brandin Cooks or Emmanuel Sanders.

Round 4. Drew Brees, QB, Saints. This is simply too much value to ignore in this round. Brees has been a Top 3 fantasy passer in seven of the last nine seasons, and never below sixth during that stretch. His durability and consistency are unparalleled.

Round 5. Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. I’m telling you, if you let him go, you’ll regret it down the stretch. Gurley is a superstar-in-waiting and all he needs is a little time to fully heal. Then it’s off to the races. If you miss out on Brees, consider snagging Gurley in the fourth and take Ben Roethlisberger here.

Round 6. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins. You can’t go wrong plucking from last year’s rookie WR class. Ryan Tannehill’s go-to receiver is expected to get more than his fair share of red-zone targets this season. He’ll be especially valuable in PPR leagues.

Round 7. Arian Foster, RB, Texans. Imagine the conundrums you’ll have deciding which two backs to start once Foster and Gurley are healthy. Your competitors will wish they had such problems. If he’s gone, go with the Lions’ promising rookie RB, Ameer Abdullah.

Round 8. Davante Adams, WR, Packers. He’s been soaring up draft boards following the season-ending injury to Jordy Nelson and the current worries over Randall Cobb’s shoulder. There’s no doubt Adams will be a busy man in the Packers’ aerial attack.

Round 9. Jordan Cameron, TE, Dolphins. He was an elite tight end in Cleveland just two seasons ago, but was slowed by concussions in 2014. If he can avoid any more, Cameron will surely prosper in Miami’s aerial attack.

Round 10. Rams defense/special teams. They top my rankings this season, but I’d also be fine waiting until later for the Eagles or Broncos.

Round 11. Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals. We need some depth at WR, and Floyd is the highest-ranked wideout on our board. As long as Carson Palmer is under center, Floyd will be fantasy-worthy.

Round 12. Owen Daniels, TE, Broncos. What if Peyton Manning gets mixed up and thinks he’s Julius Thomas? The future Hall of Famer always saves plenty of targets for his tight ends. Jimmy Graham’s replacement in New Orleans, Josh Hill, is another intriguing option in later rounds.

Round 13. Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. He could have a monster year given his trio of receivers, if he can just stay upright. I certainly don’t expect him to play 16 games, but we’ll hopefully only need him in Week 11 during Brees’ bye.

Round 14. Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers. This is the point in the draft where offbeat picks can pay huge dividends. Sims has a very real chance to emerge as the Bucs’ starting tailback, so he’s worth the gamble.

Round 15. Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots. He’ll get the Week 1 start while LeGarrette Blount serves his suspension. Gray could parlay that opportunity into a permanent starting gig, or at least a prominent role in a backfield committee. Either way, he’s worth the flier.

Round 16. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers. The third-year wideout has a golden opportunity to solidify his status as the No. 2 target in one of the league’s most prolific offenses while Martavis Bryant serves his four-game suspension. I also like Rams WR Brian Quick here.

Round 17. Brandon McManus, K, Broncos. Connor Barth is now a Buc, so the strong-legged McManus inherits the plum kicking duties for Denver’s offense. The Eagles’ Cody Parker offers similar upside.

There you have it: A team with firepower at every position and bench depth with upside galore. We may be short-handed in Week 9, but the goal isn’t to be undefeated. It’s to win a championship.

Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.


  1. Appreciate your insights! I had a question --- I've purchased your lists, but was wondering if there is any way to print or download them? I'm old school and like hard copies with me at the draft --- especially reviewing player explanations right before I pull the trigger on my choices. However, I couldn't figure out any way to print or download them. Thank you.

    1. Some have figured out how to do this, but others have had the same problem. Email me a receipt from your purchase and I'll be happy to send you the rankings via email.

    2. I am having the same difficulty and with an in-person draft and not having a tablet don't have the luxury of bringing my pc to the draft. I will email and hope you can email the rankings shortly Ladd.

  2. So after purchasing a couple of your lists I ended up with this on draft day: 10 team Standard scoring league. Snake draft and picking directly middle of order.

    QB Aaron Rodgers
    RB Marshawn Lynch
    RB Todd Gurley
    WR Dez Bryant
    WR Amari Cooper
    TE Owen Daniels
    FLEX Jonas Gray
    D/ST Philly Eagles
    K Codey Parkey

    Arian Foster
    Nelson Agholor
    C.J Spiller
    Micheal Floyd
    Charles Sims
    Antonio Gates
    Devin Funchess

    1. That looks like a very solid team, though you obviously have to start someone other than Gurley in Week 1/2.