In a perfect fantasy world, my starting lineup this season would feature Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson, Todd Gurley, Odell Beckham, Jr., Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. That would be the same perfect world in which my kids’ colleges pay me to send them there, Kate Hudson won’t stop throwing herself at me and Abraham Lincoln is running for President.
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 postseason.
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, two wide receivers, and one tight end, flex, 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 Brown or Beckham. 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 2016 Perfect Draft, we select…
Round 1. David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. The top-rated player on my board, his ADP is currently No. 5. But he’s often going higher, which means we may have to “settle” for Gurley, Adrian Peterson or an elite receiver. Johnson is primed to excel in Arizona’s high-octane offense, as both a dynamic runner and receiver.
Round 2. Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets. If we go RB in Round 1, we must nab the best available receiver here. If Gronk slides, nab him. Same for Allen Robinson. Otherwise, Marshall is your man.
Round 3. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers. It’s shocking to see last year’s No. 3 fantasy RB is dropping to the third round, but with some luck, we can snare him. If not, both Amari Cooper and Alshon Jeffery would be more than welcome on our team.
Round 4. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins. With our RB stable in fine shape, we turn to a young receiver coming off a breakout season who still has room to grow.
Round 5. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers. There are three sure-fire elite TEs – Gronk, Jordan Reed and Olsen. The latter is available here, and gives us the most prolific receiving weapon in Carolina. Plus, we won’t have to sweat out Reed’s injury history.
Round 6. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. No receiver was hotter in the second half of 2016 than Baldwin. Allen Hurns and Michael Floyd offer plenty of value here, too. Gamblers will have to strike now to secure Josh Gordon, who is soaring up draft boards after his dazzling performance over the weekend.
Round 7. Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. We’ve kept our QB powder dry and it pays off now. A healthy Palmer is the only sure bet in Arizona’s prolific passing attack on a week-to-week basis, since his cast of outstanding receivers often takes turns coming up big. Prefer to grab and stash Tom Brady until Week 5? I get that.
Round 8. Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars. For the first time I can recall in more than a decade of fantasy columns, I am writing this sentence: You’ll regret it if you don’t have a stake in the Jaguars’ passing attack. Wow. That was weird, but so true.
Round 9. Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens. The easiest call of the entire draft, the Ravens’ lead back is ridiculously undervalued after returning from a season-ending forearm injury, which is a far cry from knee or ankle surgery. Only rookie Kenneth Dixon presents a meaningful challenge to Forsett, but he just sprained his knee.
Round 10. Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars. He’s been elite in the past, and there’s no reason he can’t return to that status now that he’s healthy and paired with a prolific young QB. I like Michael Crabtree and Kevin White here, too.
Round 11. Cardinals defense/special teams. With a roster like this, we can afford to grab my top-rated defensive unit.
Round 12. James White, RB, Patriots. I like White’s potential to play a big role in the Patriots’ receiving game while Dion Lewis recovers from knee surgery. If you still need a backup QB, Kirk Cousins and Jameis Winston are starting-caliber QB2s.
Round 13. Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers. I understand the reasons, but I still think it’s crazy that V-Jax is falling this far.
Round 14. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions. Ameer Abdullah’s hold on the starting RB position in Detroit is as tenuous as my application to the Navy SEALS. Riddick isn’t a threat to run much, but he’s an integral part of the Lions’ pass-first philosophy. PPR leaguers will love him. Handcuffing our first-rounder with Chris Johnson isn’t a bad idea either.
Round 15. Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins. If preseason is any indication – and it often isn’t – Stills has supplanted DeVante Parker as Miami’s No. 2 WR. That makes him flier-worthy.
Round 16. Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots. I can think of much riskier bets in the penultimate round than a solid receiver who may have sealed his role as the Patriots’ No. 2 wideout during the offseason.
Round 17. Mason Crosby, K, Packers. I chose Crosby over Chandler Catanzaro for bye-week purposes, and because I wanted a piece of the Green Bay 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.