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High Staked: Rethinking the First Round

There’s no doubt that at likely many points this season, you’ve gone back to look at your league’s draft board to see what might have been. We have two teams in the FFPC Main Event, one we drafted from the first pick (referred to as “the good team”), and one we drafted from the 12th spot (also known as “the one we don’t really talk about”).

We are now more than halfway through the Main Event’s 11-game regular season, so it’s as good a time as any to assess which players the high-stakes draft community regarded as the best in theory, and who the best performers are in practice (so far).

For the purposes of this (likely futile) exercise, we’re looking at the first few rounds, comparing the original ADP with the actual on-field performances to date. We are going to eliminate players who have missed multiple games due to injury or contract dispute, so we’ll scratch off Le’Veon Bell, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Devonta Freeman and T.Y. Hilton. If you drafted any of those guys, sorry about the bad luck.

Now, let’s say you had the chance to draft Todd Gurley but passed. Does your house have a bunch of holes in the wall about the size of your bloodied fists? Because I’d imagine that would be the reaction. The player picked as most likely to be the most valuable in FFPC leagues is living up to that prediction, averaging about 30 points a game.

In the preseason ADP, the three guys who followed Gurley were all running backs, and the same would still be true after six weeks, except instead of David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara, the order would be Kamara, Melvin Gordon and Saquon Barkley. If drafts were held today, I’d argue that any of Gurley, Kamara, Gordon or Barkley would be worth the 1.1, with the edge to Gurley simply based on the performance of the Rams’ offense. Those players have been so dominant at their position that next year’s first round could be just as RB-heavy as this year’s.

Most surprising is the top wide receiver so far: Adam Thielen, who has had at least 100 yards receiving in every game this season and yet wasn’t even the first Vikings WR off the board in drafts1. It’s difficult to imagine this pace will continue, but it’s safe to say he won’t be going in the mid-third round next year. Following Thielen is Michael Thomas, who also could find himself among first-round picks in 2019.

Another (mild) surprise is the top tight end, Zach Ertz, who was solidly the third TE off boards but has thus far been the class of a position decimated by injuries. Rob Gronkowski has reliably been the top TE in drafts for years, but Ertz and Travis Kelce have outplayed him so far and likely would be drafted ahead of him today.

The third-best WR so far, based on average points per game, would have to be Tyreek Hill, who has raised his floor (with only one clunker this year) to go along with the massive ceiling he has shown while catching passes from Patrick Mahomes (himself a candidate to be the first QB drafted next year). Rounding out the mid-season first round are more familiar faces: Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins. James Conner also deserves a mention, as his numbers so far are right up there with other first-rounders, but the uncertainty about his rest-of-season role is still a huge factor.

Of course, though this marks roughly the halfway point of the Main Event regular season, there are still 10 more weeks of fantasy football left — plenty of time for torrid streaks to cool, for rookies to catch fire and for this list to become completely obsolete.

  1. Try to be more like Adam, Stefon Diggs.  (back)

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