By Jennifer Eakins, 4for4
Special to Yahoo Sports
Getting the first pick in the draft is both a blessing and a curse, but if you plan accordingly, the spot can certainly pan out in your favor. The blessing portion, of course, grants you the elite running back of your choosing in 2020 and the ability to start positional runs throughout the draft. Spot 1 is also cursed with having to let 22 players off the board before you get to select your second guy, and you can also miss out on positional runs coming from the back end of the draft.
This year specifically, the first two rounds are incredibly running back heavy, so my plan is to start with a top rusher and then grab two stud WRs on the next turn, or perhaps one of the elite TEs if they happen to fall.
In this article, I will walk through a perfect draft with the first pick in a 12-team Yahoo half-PPR league. Each pick was optimized using projections and value-based rankings from the 4for4 Draft Analyzer tool.
Draft Analyzer Settings:
Roster Settings: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR/TE), 1 K, 1 DST, 6 bench spots
No restrictions on when to draft positional players: I tend to be one of the last to draft a QB or sometimes TE, but I still like to be aware if players are falling in a specific draft. This feature sets Draft Analyzer apart so I keep no limits on recommendations.
No K or DST until the last two rounds: I prefer to stream both positions and would rather draft depth for my bench than select either a kicker or team defense before the last two rounds.
1 QB, TE, K, D/ST: For this mock, I want to simulate a league that has a more advanced approach to roster construction, so I’m switching the maximum number of the “onesie” positions to just one. This can be done by going to League Settings from the Home page and selecting the Rosters Tab. With only 15 rounds, this creates a more realistic approach to the modern draft.
ADP Settings: For this particular draft, I changed the ADP from the default to a custom one that favors half-PPR. Once we move a bit farther into draft season, choosing the hosting site, in this case, Yahoo, should provide your optimal draft strategy.
For a comprehensive tutorial on setting up Draft Analyzer for your league, read our Draft Analyzer Walkthrough.
Round 1, Pick 1 (1) RB - Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey is the centerpiece of the Carolina offense and should repeat his RB1 performance from 2019 if he remains healthy. His 142 targets from last season were the most on record for a running back since PFR began tracking them in 1992 and, combined with carries, the Panthers’ back led the league in total touches (387) and was second only to Lamar Jackson in half-PPR points per game (26.1). It’s a no-brainer for me and I smash that draft button.
It should be noted that Draft Analyzer also gave me Michael Thomas and Travis Kelce, in the event you prefer a different roster construction.
Each round, Draft Analyzer suggests the top available suggestion along with four alternatives, as shown at the top of this section. Throughout the rest of the article, I will note those suggestions as well as my top alternative to the player that I actually selected.
My Top Alternative: Ezekiel Elliott
Round 2, Pick 12 (24) WR - Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
Despite losing Matthew Stafford midway through the season, Kenny Golladay quietly ended 2019 as the WR5 in half-PPR formats. His size and speed create a nightmare matchup for opposing secondaries and if his QB can stay upright in 2020, Golladay should be in line for a WR1 output.
If Lamar Jackson had fallen to me here, I may have debated drafting him and pairing him with Mark Andrews with my next pick. However, taking a set of high-end WRs feels like the right move.
Suggested Alternatives: Patrick Mahomes, Mark Andrews, Mike Evans, Allen Robinson
My Top Alternative: Allen Robinson
Round 3, Pick 1 (25) WR - Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
Draft Analyzer has Allen Robinson as my top suggestion after Patrick Mahomes, and I agree. I toyed with the idea of taking Mahomes here since he fell all the way to 3.01, but in redraft, I feel that I can get better value from the other positions at the top of the board and still get solid QB points in the middle of the draft.
Robinson was WR7 last season and he could see arguably the best QB play of his career in 2020, assuming Nick Foles gets the nod in Chicago. With two top-10 WRs and the best RB in the game, I am pleased with this start and hope these next few rounds are very WR heavy, which would benefit my roster on the next turn.
Suggested Alternatives: Patrick Mahomes, Mark Andrews, A.J. Brown, Mike Evans
My Top Alternative: Patrick Mahomes
Round 4, Pick 12 (48) RB - Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
There were 12 WRs taken since my last pick, which played into my plan perfectly. I really wanted Chris Carson or James Conner to be here for my RB2 and I actually have the choice of either one. Last year’s RB11 in half-PPR formats, Carson gets no love from the fantasy community and I am always there to take advantage of it. Despite fumbling in each of the first three contests in 2019, the Seahawks gave him 20+ carries in the next five games, showing their confidence in him as the primary back.
With Rashaad Penny sidelined to start the 2020 season and his only real competition being Carlos Hyde and a rookie, Carson could see more work in the passing game — at least to start the year — and I like his chances of a top-15 finish.
Suggested Alternatives: James Conner, David Johnson, Le'Veon Bell, Mark Ingram
My Top Alternative: James Conner
Round 5, Pick 1 (49) RB - James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers
I would normally go WR here, but I want to mix it up and secure my RB3. James Conner has a value score of +23 which is the highest remaining of the backs, and he’s projected to score more half-PPR points than any of the remaining WRs. The drop off after this tier of rushers is far more drastic than at wideout, so I feel that I can still get a solid WR3 on the next turn.
When healthy, Conner has averaged 16.4 half-PPR points per tilt as the starter, which translates to RB7 numbers last season. Conner is the clear lead back in Pittsburgh, and with Ben Roethlisberger back under center, this whole offense should see a spike in production.
* Since this piece was written on 4for4, James Conner's ADP has skyrocketed up to the second round, sometimes third if you're lucky.
Suggested Alternatives: David Johnson, Terry McLaurin, Le'Veon Bell, Mark Ingram
My Top Alternative: Terry McLaurin
Round 6, Pick 12 (72) WR - Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
The software suggested Marquise Brown, but I prefer Michael Gallup here. They are only four points apart in predicted overall half-PPR points, and I really want a piece of the Dallas offense this season. With Jason Witten and Randall Cobb wearing different uniforms in 2020, there are over 160 targets up for grabs in this offense, and Gallup could absorb a decent amount of those considering rookie CeeDee Lamb’s acclimation time to the NFL is cut very short.
I am stoked to get Gallup as my WR3 and have several different ways, position-wise, that I can go with my upcoming Round 7 pick.
Suggested Alternatives: Ronald Jones, Marquise Brown, A.J. Green, Jarvis Landry
My Top Alternative: Jarvis Landry
Round 7, Pick 1 (73) WR - A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
If this was a best ball league I would be taking Marquise Brown here, but instead, I’m going to roll the dice with A.J. Green. The 32 year old has six 1,000-yard seasons to his name and has been a fantasy WR1 in every year he’s taken the field except for 2018 when he only played in nine contests. Green took the offseason to train in different ways to avoid similar injuries that he’s dealt with in the past. While he already suffered a hamstring injury, he returned to the practice this week and should lead the Bengals in targets if he can stay on the field, setting up for a rebound year under the franchise tag.
Suggested Alternatives: Marquise Brown, Jarvis Landry, Tyler Boyd, Julian Edelman
My Top Alternative: Jarvis Landry
Round 8, Pick 12 (96) RB - Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I am not a big Ronald Jones gal; in fact, this is the first time I am drafting him this season in close to 50 drafts. However, all players have value at some point and Jones dropping to Pick 96 signifies a good time to click the button for him. In MFL redraft formats beginning in August, Jones has a current ADP of 79, which bumps up to 74 in drafts starting 8/15, but I have actually seen him coming off boards as early as the fifth round recently. He’ll have to fight off rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn and won’t see too much passing work, but with the bulk of the early down carries, I am cool with Jones as my RB4.
Suggested Alternatives: Tom Brady, Latavius Murray, Tarik Cohen, Kerryon Johnson
My Top Alternative: Latavius Murray
Round 9, Pick 1 (97) WR - John Brown, Buffalo Bills
The software wants me to take Tom Brady here, but that’s not going to happen. With only three teams left without a QB, I’ll wait at least one more round, and Brady is not a player I am personally targeting this season. Instead, I choose to add depth to my WR corps and John Brown makes for a solid addition as my WR5. Brown posted career highs in targets (115), receptions (72), and yardage (1,060) last season with Josh Allen and, despite the addition of Stefon Diggs, should still put up WR3 numbers in 2020.
Suggested Alternatives: Tom Brady, Latavius Murray, Tarik Cohen, Emmanuel Sanders
My Top Alternative: Emmanuel Sanders
Round 10, Pick 12 (120) RB - Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles
Boston Scott is an RB I have been scooping up this season in the later rounds and I’m thrilled to see him as my top suggestion. He saw 70 touches — including 26 catches — in the last five games of 2019, including Philly’s lone postseason matchup. With both Darren Sproles and Jordan Howard no longer in town, he’s the clear second fiddle to Miles Sanders and should see significant work at a friendly draft position.
Suggested Alternatives: Duke Johnson, Golden Tate, Curtis Samuel, Preston Williams
My Top Alternative: Antonio Gibson
Round 11, Pick 1 (121) TE - Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys
Since I waited so long at TE and this league has a deep bench, I decide that I am going to take two of them and play the hot hand or easy schedule to start out the season, instead of taking a streaming approach. I start with Blake Jarwin because not only does he have a really soft start to the season according to aFPA, but I really like his potential for production in 2020. Similar to Gallup above, there are an abundance of vacated targets in that offense and Jarwin flourished when given the chance last year. He turned a modest 41 targets into 8.9 yards per target (sixth among TEs) and 2.37 yards per pass route (eighth among TEs). If he hits as a TE1, he’s a great value as the 121st player off the board.
Suggested Alternatives: Dallas Goedert, Jonnu Smith, T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant
My Top Alternative: Jonnu Smith
Round 12, Pick 12 (144) QB - Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
It’s QB time and I like Carson Wentz due to his dual-threat ability both via air and the ground. Daniel Jones offers the same appeal, but I have been selecting Jones in many leagues and wanted to mix it up for this draft. Wentz is 4for4’s 11th-ranked QB this season and getting him in the 12th round feels like stealing, considering his ADP hovers around 7.10.
Suggested Alternatives: Joe Burrow, Ben Roethlisberger, Daniel Jones, Ryan Tannehill
My Top Alternative: Daniel Jones
Round 13, Pick 1 (145) TE - Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans
I mentioned Jarwin’s appeal above, as he faces teams in Weeks 1-7 with an average 2019 aFPA ranking to TEs of 26th. On the flip side, Jonnu Smith has a favorable end to his 2020, facing defensive units who average 19th in aFPA to the position from Weeks 12-16. Drafting two TEs gives me the flexibility of dropping one if needed or playing the matchups as the season progresses.
Suggested Alternatives: Adrian Peterson, Joshua Kelley, Brandon Aiyuk, Allen Lazard
My Top Alternative: Brandon Aiyuk
Round 14, Pick 12 (168) WR - Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
49ers HC Kyle Shanahan has given Brandon Aiyuk high praise so far, saying that he’s "further ahead than a lot of rookies.” With Deebo Samuel recovering from foot surgery and Jalen Hurd suffering an injury in practice on August 17, Aiyuk figures to be in the mix for a Week 1 role. I’ll take that as my WR6.
Suggested Alternatives: Allen Lazard, Larry Fitzgerald, Parris Campbell, Steven Sims
My Top Alternative: Allen Lazard
Round 15, Pick 1 (169) - Philadelphia Eagles D/ST
Assuming all the top DSTs are gone, I look for the unit with the easiest start to the season. My strategy is always to stream defenses and kickers from week-to-week based on matchups, and the Eagles begin 2020 against Washington, whose 10.9 fantasy points allowed to DSTs ranked dead-last in the league last year.
Suggested Alternatives: Rams, Panthers, Titans, Colts
My Top Alternative: Titans
Round 16, Pick 12 (192) K - Greg Zuerlein, Dallas Cowboys
Since I also stream kicker, I am looking for a guy on a team that’s projected to win in Week 1 with a high over/under on the game. The Cowboys are 2.5-point favorites over the Rams with a 50.5 total implied score to kick off the 2020 season, and Zuerlein is the best streamer available to me here.
Suggested Alternatives: Matt Gay, Zane Gonzalez, Younghoe Koo, Jason Myers
My Top Alternative: Matt Gay
Lessons Learned: Drafting from the first spot puts a ton of weight on those next two picks, but since so many teams are hoarding RBs in 2020, you can score two elite WRs or even grab your RB2 if you like who’s there. I took the former option and was still able to secure back-to-back solid RBs in Rounds 4 and 5. This team is loaded with talent in both stability and upside, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out.
Follow Jennifer on Twitter @themondaymommy
More analysis from 4for4: Players to Avoid in Every Round of Fantasy Football Drafts
A proud alumna of the UGA Grady College of Journalism, Jennifer Eakins has been working in the sports industry for well over a decade. She has had stints with CNN Sports, the Atlanta Hawks and the Colorado Rockies. Her first fantasy football draft took place in 1996 where she selected Ricky Watters with the first overall pick, and she has been a fantasy degenerate ever since.