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20 Rounds of Death

Last week a bunch of my favorite people participated in a best ball league for charity, and thanks go out to our ringleader Pat Thorman. Winnings from the 2017 MFL10 of Death went to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and I’d like to mention Sal Stefanile for helping to set that up and for the important work he has done with them.

Yesterday, I explained how you can use contingency-based drafting to dominate your best ball leagues. Today, we’ll go through the picks. All 20 rounds.

When you see a pick that doesn’t make sense from this caliber of expert, it’s worth trying to decipher the thesis behind it instead of discounting it out of hand. Almost all of my league-winning teams have received Fs from team-rating apps.1 Sometimes controversial picks become the best selections in the draft.

I’ll look at the picks I envied and note controversial selections, but make sure you consider each selection for yourself. You can guarantee every one was made for a reason.2

Onward

Round 1

Pick Owner Player
1.01 Hribar Le’Veon Bell
1.02 Forbes Todd Gurley
1.03 Summerlin David Johnson
1.04 Barrett Ezekiel Elliott
1.05 Siegele Antonio Brown
1.06 Clay DeAndre Hopkins
1.07 Carter Julio Jones
1.08 Bloom Alvin Kamara
1.09 Rummy Michael Thomas
1.10 Zachariason Saquon Barkley
1.11 Kleinheksel Odell Beckham
1.12 Thorman Kareem Hunt

Stealing: Odell Beckham

Five of the first six picks are locks, but drafters have to answer much more difficult questions in the second half. Alvin Kamara is also enticing,3 but Beckham was in the conversation for No. 1 a year ago. The Todd Gurley of the receiver position but even more talented, he’ll be back in the mix for No. 1 again a year from now.

Most Controversial: Ezekiel Elliott

The Dallas star exploded on the scene in 2016 and hardly missed a beat when active last year, despite a suspension saga that must have been a distraction. Unfortunately, if any elite back is primed to have a Gurley 2016 season, Elliott is the most obvious candidate. The high-powered offense that opened gaping holes and frequently delivered him to the goal line is the middle of a collapse, and a league-worst receiving corps won’t cause much distraction for the defense. Elliott could still easily finish No. 1 overall, but he’s a difficult pick with Brown and Hopkins still on the board – superstars at a more valuable position – and safer-yet-exciting RB options like Kamara and Saquon Barkley waiting in the wings.

I’m in the minority here as Elliott is the clear No. 4 by ADP.4Elliott ADP

Try the new MFL10 ADP app!

My Pick: Antonio Brown

DeAndre Hopkins has moved to No. 1 in dynasty, but Brown remains the top WR choice for one more season. With four straight seasons above 20 PPG – and three of four above 22 – he’s just too safe and too high-ceiling to make a different selection.

Round 2

2.01 Melvin Gordon
2.02 Mike Evans
2.03 Davante Adams
2.04 Dalvin Cook
2.05 Rob Gronkowski
2.06 A.J. Green
2.07 Keenan Allen
2.08 Stefon Diggs
2.09 Leonard Fournette
2.10 Tyreek Hill
2.11 Amari Cooper
2.12 Devonta Freeman

Stealing: Keenan Allen

After several injury-plagued seasons, Allen re-emerged in 2017 and did what he’s always done going back to college. Using a simple model from the RotoViz Screener, Allen has the clear No. 3 projection at WR.

Most Controversial: Amari Cooper

I considered Cooper and hoped he’d come back around to me, but his selection must still be considered controversial after a lost season and with Derek Carr floundering. Michael Crabtree was a mess last year, too, meaning the additions of Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant offer more competition, not less.

My Pick: Stefon Diggs

Diggs continues to impress on a per game basis, despite a neutral offensive approach where Minnesota ranked No. 17 in expected fantasy points at WR. Expect a transitional period as the offense adjusts to Kirk Cousins, but the subsequent continuity at QB should allow him to finally ascend to top tier status.

Round 3

3.01 LeSean McCoy
3.02 Adam Thielen
3.03 Doug Baldwin
3.04 Christian McCaffrey
3.05 Travis Kelce
3.06 Joe Mixon
3.07 Jordan Howard
3.08 T.Y. Hilton
3.09 Sony Michel
3.10 Allen Robinson
3.11 Derrius Guice
3.12 Jerick McKinnon

Stealing: Christian McCaffrey

I probably would have selected McCaffrey at 2.08 in an ordinary redraft league. His value has been depressed by the C.J. Anderson signing, a move that makes McCaffrey cheaper without necessarily making him less valuable.

Most Controversial: Sony Michel

The No. 31 reality pick should provide a spark in New England but immediately finds himself embroiled in a sticky depth chart. A committee back at Georgia, he offers three-down potential but between-the-20s downside with Rex Burkhead and James White in position to siphon high-leverage touches. Of course, he’s a more appealing pick in best ball, where the weekly usage shenanigans don’t cause such a headache. Michel surprisingly lasted to 1.08 in a recent dynasty best-ball rookie draft.

My Pick: Travis Kelce

Early tight ends are a must in best ball, and Kelce offers week-winning upside. The target logjam brought on by Sammy Watkins’ arrival should be mitigated by Pat Mahomes’ gunslinging tendencies.

Round 4

4.01 Larry Fitzgerald
4.02 JuJu Smith-Schuster
4.03 Rashaad Penny
4.04 Dion Lewis
4.05 Alshon Jeffery
4.06 Josh Gordon
4.07 Demaryius Thomas
4.08 Zach Ertz
4.09 Kenyan Drake
4.10 Brandin Cooks
4.11 Jarvis Landry
4.12 Golden Tate

Stealing: Jarvis Landry

How quickly will Baker Mayfield take over in Cleveland? Normally a rookie QB causes consternation, but Landry owners will prefer the passer over the scrambler as the Browns try to navigate the sudden glut of receiving options. Annually questioned, Landry is a constant fantasy force.

Most Controversial: Kenyan Drake

It’s early for a committee back like Dion Lewis, but he has a potentially explosive offense at his disposal and receiving numbers to cushion the floor. Drake is an exciting but narrow-moat player in a moribund offense. He’s the perfect example of a player to target in a Zero RB strategy before he breaks out and sell at a profit once he does.

My Pick: Zach Ertz 

With an ADP of 38 overall, Ertz is a mild value who saves a roster spot later, provides weekly upside in the case of an injury, and offers plenty of flex firepower.

Round 5

5.01 Derrick Henry
5.02 Mark Ingram
5.03 Alex Collins
5.04 Julian Edelman
5.05 Ronald Jones
5.06 Jay Ajayi
5.07 Lamar Miller
5.08 Marvin Jones
5.09 Cooper Kupp
5.1 Royce Freeman
5.11 Evan Engram
5.12 Sammy Watkins

Stealing: Royce Freeman

Frequent readers know my affection for Freeman, an undervalued runner who slipped to No. 71 on draft day but found himself in the best landing spot for a rookie runner. He has less competition than the veteran RBs selected ahead of him in this round and the upside that comes with rookie uncertainty.

Most Controversial: The Volume Veterans

I prefer to sell early-season volume, especially during the summer and especially when the talents involved raise serious questions about ceiling.

My Pick: Ronald Jones

I’m overly enthusiastic about Jones, but my thesis is this: We’re looking at a temporary buying window on the USC star due to concerns about his workouts and an overemphasis on size. The Tampa depth chart offers no impediment to serious touches, and Jones was a college workhorse.

Round 6

6.01 Hunter Henry
6.02 Greg Olsen
6.03 Corey Davis
6.04 Devin Funchess
6.05 Russell Wilson
6.06 Will Fuller
6.07 Aaron Rodgers
6.08 Tevin Coleman
6.09 Robert Woods
6.1 Deshaun Watson
6.11 Michael Crabtree
6.12 Jordy Nelson

Stealing: Will Fuller

A round ago, my “predrafts” were Jones and Fuller. He almost came back but Carter makes the astute grab here. Not only is Fuller perfect for the format, but his profile absolutely screams 2018 breakout.

Most Controversial: Vets Changing Teams

Historically, WRs who change teams suffer a decline in production, and veterans coming off of bad seasons represent serious collapse potential.

The offenses in Baltimore and Oakland do not offer the explosiveness to negate these concerns.

My Pick: Tevin Coleman

A fourth-round pick in this league a year ago, Coleman continued to produce solid RB2 numbers as Freeman’s sidekick and would be a value in this round on that alone, but he makes the Zero RB priority list every year because an injury to Freeman would instantly boost him into the first-round discussion.5

Round 7

7.01 DeVante Parker
7.02 Jimmy Graham
7.03 Pierre Garcon
7.04 Emmanuel Sanders
7.05 Chris Hogan
7.06 Delanie Walker
7.07 Rex Burkhead
7.08 Tarik Cohen
7.09 Kenny Golladay
7.10 Randall Cobb
7.11 Aaron Jones
7.12 Jamison Crowder

Stealing: Tarik Cohen

It’s hard not to love Jimmy Graham in Green Bay, but we’ll go with a second-year breakout for Cohen with Matt Nagy. The Bears are looking for someone to complement Allen Robinson and provide athleticism and electricity for the offense. When you square the rhetoric coming out of Chicago with Cohen’s rookie exploits and tested athleticism, he’s a threat to lead the RB position in receptions. Backs like Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, and Danny Woodhead have been league winners without much of a rushing component, and Cohen looks like the heir to the throne.

Most Controversial: Rex Burkhead

I own Burkhead everywhere and hope this pick foreshadows another RB2 season. Currently, the depth chart doesn’t offer a clear picture of where the volume comes from, especially if Jeremy Hill makes the team.

My Pick: Chris Hogan

Cooks’ departure creates plenty of volume for Hogan, especially if Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski miss time as usual. Since joining the Patriots, Hogan’s hit double figures in half of his games and reached 15-plus on 10 occasions (including playoffs).

Round 8

8.01 Nelson Agholor
8.02 Kerryon Johnson
8.03 Marshawn Lynch
8.04 Nick Chubb
8.05 Chris Thompson
8.06 Jordan Reed
8.07 Duke Johnson
8.08 Marquise Goodwin
8.09 Tom Brady
8.10 Marlon Mack
8.11 Carlos Hyde
8.12 Kelvin Benjamin

Stealing: Kerryon Johnson

This may be the Detroit bias showing, but Johnson offers a three-down skillset for a team that could score in bunches. The presence of LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick isn’t as big a concern for a team that may use more of a Patriots rotational template, but they serve to keep his ADP reasonable.

Most Controversial: The Browns RBs

For what felt like three days, the default draft list at RB showed Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb, and Duke Johnson as the best three available, illustrating the dilemma for drafters wading into the Cleveland quagmire. Johnson could lose receptions to Hyde. Hyde should lose high-leverage touches to both Chubb and Johnson. Meanwhile, the rookie could quickly emerge as a force, or he might just get his feet wet with a handful of between-the-20s touches. The likely Week 1 split offers low ceilings all around, but any change in circumstance could leave one owner with a winning lottery ticket.

Although the Browns runners are losing value, all three were still values here by ADP.

Browns RB ADP

My Pick: Marquise Goodwin

The extreme burner finished very fast in 2017 with Jimmy Garoppolo at the controls and Pierre Garcon on injured reserve. There should be plenty to go around in 2018 unless the overdrafted Dante Pettis immediately silences critics.6

Round 9

9.01 Rishard Matthews
9.02 Sterling Shepard
9.03 Isaiah Crowell
9.04 Kyle Rudolph
9.05 Jamaal Williams
9.06 Robby Anderson
9.07 Cameron Meredith
9.08 Tyler Lockett
9.09 Jack Doyle
9.10 Trey Burton
9.11 Giovani Bernard
9.12 Kenny Stills

Stealing: Robby Anderson

I love the WR selections in this round, and Anderson sports the most upside of any of them. Even with the return of Quincy Enunwa and the addition of Terrelle Pryor, the third-year speedster’s string of impressive seasons, which stretches back to college, argues for him as the best talent by a wide margin. (Keep in mind how difficult it is for undrafted players to break out early.) Hopefully his misadventures don’t derail a promising career.

Most Controversial: Isaiah Crowell

Scapegoated in Cleveland, the early-down grinder gets a new lease in New York, but he must compete with a bloated depth chart that includes Bilal PowellThomas Rawls and the underrated Elijah McGuire on an offense that may be a year away from supporting a high-end RB.

My Pick: Jamaal Williams

I’m an Aaron Jones guy but couldn’t resist the nominal starter on an explosive offense at this point of the draft. Even if he splits time with Jones and Ty Montgomery – a scenario that appears extremely likely – his production should play in best ball formats.

Round 10

10.01 Martavis Bryant
10.02 Marqise Lee
10.03 Josh Doctson
10.04 Cam Newton
10.05 DeSean Jackson
10.06 C.J. Anderson
10.07 D’Onta Foreman
10.08 D.J. Moore
10.09 Dez Bryant
10.10 Tyler Eifert
10.11 Ty Montgomery
10.12 Paul Richardson

Stealing: Paul Richardson

D’Onta Foreman was my target here, but Mike Clay adroitly grabbed him one spot ahead of me. He’ll be a steal if he avoids PUP to start the season. Richardson fits the mold of a player about to break out in Year 5 after changing teams. It’s surprising to see him with an ADP almost 20 spots after Josh Doctson when the two players have arrows pointing in opposite directions after 2017.

Most Controversial: Tyler Eifert 

This is a big risk/reward pick and illustrates the value of using Early TE to preserve upside while conserving total roster spots. As an Eifert dynasty owner in multiple leagues, I hope it pays off.

My Pick: D.J. Moore 

Rookie receivers have been more productive than many believe, especially those who enter the NFL with an excellent age-adjusted resume and land on relatively barren depth charts. He should push Devin Funchess right away.

Round 11

11.01 Drew Brees
11.02 George Kittle
11.03 Bilal Powell
11.04 Mohamed Sanu
11.05 Jimmy Garoppolo
11.06 Theo Riddick
11.07 Corey Clement
11.08 Nyheim Hines
11.09 Kirk Cousins
11.10 Allen Hurns
11.11 Carson Wentz
11.12 Ted Ginn

Stealing: Nyheim Hines

The position player value has mostly disappeared, and it’s difficult to see scenarios where most of the RBs/WRs would be drafted higher in a 2018 mid-season draft. Hines may offer a little better floor than anticipated if he debuts in a Duke Johnson-type role, and his upside becomes pretty enticing if he emerges as a Faulk-like force.

Most Controversial: Bilal Powell

I don’t understand what the Jets are doing at RB, but Powell is an old RB who struggled with a wide open depth chart in 2017. Crowell and Rawls are downgrades on a healthy Matt Forte, but Powell didn’t truly vanquish an old, injured, and washed up Forte a year ago.7 Plus, it’s more difficult to navigate multiple competitors. And McGuire may still be the biggest talent here.

My Pick: Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers’ franchise posted big numbers in his fast finish, and his weapons will be seriously upgraded in Year 2. With RB and WR value flat, this was the time to move to a deep group of high-upside signal-callers.

Round 12

12.01 Matthew Stafford
12.02 Jared Goff
12.03 Ben Roethlisberger
12.04 David Njoku
12.05 Andrew Luck
12.06 Latavius Murray
12.07 Calvin Ridley
12.08 Patrick Mahomes
12.09 Charles Clay
12.1 Eric Ebron
12.11 Jameis Winston
12.12 Marcus Mariota

Stealing: Marcus Mariota

This was the right round to attack the QB position. Investing early burns a crucial pick and waiting much longer dramatically lowers your floor at the position. All of the QBs here have upside, but in a new offense and with maturing weapons, Mariota should finally make the jump.

Most Controversial: Charles Clay

A solid performer in the 9.0 PPG range since joining the Bills, Clay is a floor pick with poor receiving options as competition. But lacking breakout potential even before you consider his chronic injuries, the Bills starter isn’t appealing with A.J. McCarron and Josh Allen at QB.

My Pick: Patrick Mahomes

A prolific collegiate producer and freakish arm talent, Mahomes should have been raw as a rookie but flashed MVP ability in his Week 17 start. He defeated the Broncos with a skeleton crew that day and will be tasked with winning shootouts in 2018. Fortunately, he may have the NFL’s best skill talent at his disposal.

Round 13

13.01 Michael Gallup
13.02 Matt Ryan
13.03 Devontae Booker
13.04 Albert Wilson
13.05 Philip Rivers
13.06 Alex Smith
13.07 Mitchell Trubisky
13.08 Jaguars D
13.09 Tyrell Williams
13.10 Mike Gesicki
13.11 Zay Jones
13.12 Derek Carr

Michael Gallup was the No. 1 WR in this week’s top-five risers. The other four are surprising.

My Pick: Philip Rivers

After finishing 2017 as QB6, Rivers has had more talent at his disposal than at almost any time in his career. The Hunter Henry injury fallout dampens his outlook, but plenty of impressive weapons remain. By selecting a third QB in a round where the RB/WR talent is bland at best, I protect against injury and create serious upside, albeit at a onesie position.

Round 14

14.01 O.J. Howard
14.02 Christian Kirk
14.03 Dak Prescott
14.04 Cameron Brate
14.05 Ben Watson
14.06 Jordan Matthews
14.07 Anthony Miller
14.08 Mike Williams
14.09 John Ross
14.10 Vance McDonald
14.11 Dede Westbrook
14.12 Ricky Seals-Jones

Stealing: O.J. Howard

Howard has a lower floor than his 14th-round peers but easily the most breakout potential.

Most Controversial: Anthony Miller

The rookie needs a lot to go right to return value. The Bears have to get the offense going, and Trubisky would have to emerge well enough to support receivers beyond Robinson, Cohen, and Trey Burton. Add the normal risk for an old, second-round rookie – even an exciting one like Miller – and he may lack the weekly upside necessary for a late-round best ball pick at WR.

My Pick: Mike Williams

I was a skeptic of Williams a season ago, but his back injury has created a mouthwatering ADP. The Chargers were poised to force volume his way after burning a top-10 pick, and now they have even more incentive with Henry out. Year 2 is the one to target for WR breakouts.

Round 15

15.01 Mike Wallace
15.02 James White
15.03 Case Keenum
15.04 Blake Bortles
15.05 Chris Godwin
15.06 Jordan Wilkins
15.07 Andy Dalton
15.08 Rams
15.09 Spencer Ware
15.1 Matt Breida
15.11 T.J. Yeldon
15.12 Peyton Barber

Stealing: James White

Even if Michel is an immediate upgrade on Dion Lewis, you need a fairly specific scenario for White not to possess at least as much value as he managed in 2017.

Most Controversial: Spencer Ware

With Hunt entrenched and Damien Williams waiting in the wings as an underrated handcuff, Ware could be squeezed in 2018 even if he comes back healthy. This is a solid late pick, but the next three backs all offer slightly higher floors and ceilings.

My Pick: Chris Godwin

With White gone, I wagered that one of Matt Breida, T.J. Yeldon, or Peyton Barber would come back. They didn’t make it out of the round, but Godwin addresses what is still a need for more depth at WR. Godwin is exactly the type of player who tends to crush ADP – a receiver with an elite collegiate resume who performed well as a rookie, but not so well that a breakout is already assumed and priced in. Depth chart concerns create the opportunity and also lower the floor.

Round 16

16.01 Eli Manning
16.02 Javorius Allen
16.03 Austin Hooper
16.04 Quincy Enunwa
16.05 Kenneth Dixon
16.06 Ryan Tannehill
16.07 Eagles
16.08 Vikings
16.09 Austin Seferian-Jenkins
16.1 Ryan Grant
16.11 Jared Cook
16.12 Chargers

Most Controversial: The QBs

Although Round 16 was heavy on TE and defense, intriguing RB and WR values remain. Those positions have been relatively flat since Round 12. The same cannot be said at QB.

My Pick: Vikings Defense

Round 17

17.01 Donte Moncrief
17.02 Tavon Austin
17.03 Houston
17.04 Baltimore
17.05 Austin Ekeler
17.06 New England
17.07 Luke Willson
17.08 James Washington
17.09 Denver
17.1 Pittsburgh
17.11 Rico Gathers
17.12 New Orleans

Grabbing a defense is boring yet tricky. Don’t go too early, but don’t get caught out as you try to snag three top-20 units.

My Pick: Austin Ekeler

Justin Jackson may have lasted until Round 7 of the reality draft, but he’s a legitimate threat to Ekeler’s role. Although Jackson could siphon off some of the third-down and space touches, a higher profile addition could have been much worse. Ekeler reached double digits in five of 13 weeks as an undrafted rookie. The former Western Colorado star possesses freaky athleticism (4.43 forty, 40-inch vertical, 6.83 three-cone) and flashed the ability to thrive in a Sproles-plus deployment.

Round 18

18.01 Tennessee
18.02 Detroit
18.03 Carolina
18.04 Atlanta
18.05 Cole Beasley
18.06 Terrelle Pryor
18.07 Ryan Griffin
18.08 Chicago
18.09 John Brown
18.1 Arizona
18.11 Danny Amendola
18.12 Adam Shaheen

Defenses and Danny Amendola.

Round 19

19.01 Tampa Bay
19.02 San Francisco
19.03 Willie Snead
19.04 Terrance Williams
19.05 Kansas City
19.06 Washington
19.07 Seattle
19.08 Corey Coleman
19.09 Frank Gore
19.1 Green Bay
19.11 Buffalo
19.12 Cincinnati

A trade to a decent team and Corey Coleman is a Round 10 value.

Round 20

20.01 Corey Grant
20.02 Indianapolis
20.03 Chester Rogers
20.04 Geronimo Allison
20.05 Keke Coutee
20.06 Cleveland
20.07 Darren Sproles
20.08 Chris Carson
20.09 Dallas
20.1 Baker Mayfield
20.11 New York Giants
20.12 Michael Roberts

The selections of Chester Rogers and Darren Sproles illustrate the possibility of finding late value at the most important positions.

Charles Kleinheksel picked the best roster according to MFL’s rating software. Will he take down his second title? Stay tuned.

Do I have a Kareem Hunt on my 2018 roster? Was there a specific player selection I could have made to win the league? What picks were you favorites in the 2018 MFL10 of Death?

  1. Sadly both the 2017 MFL10 of Death and the 2018 team scored relatively well by the rating tools from MFL and Fantasy Pros.  (back)
  2. Winning? Hopefully, it was winning.  (back)
  3. Much of the focus for Kamara is the inability to match the ridiculous efficiency numbers, but the rookie flashed upside in the range of Marshall Faulk or Jamaal Charles and was primed for an expanding workload even before the Mark Ingram suspension.  (back)
  4. He’s No. 10 on my board.  (back)
  5. Consider the explosion from Freeman when Coleman was injured in 2015 and the mega-breakout from Hunt after Spencer Ware’s injury last year.  (back)
  6. Which he obviously could do.  (back)
  7. Powell splits  (back)

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