After a bunch of us Yahoo staff did a live Best Ball draft, my boss suggested I write about my aggressive approach to drafting young players. While I’m happy to discuss further (although that’s pretty typical of my fantasy football drafts every year), and it’s true I went extreme here (seven of my first 10 picks were 24 years old or younger, including three rookies), I argued an even better reason to write about these draft results is to highlight the poll conducted afterward:
Please realize my whopping four percent came with just four other league participants as options! Pretty funny stuff considering I drafted three guys in my top-12 and four in my top-20 on my overall board. As humorous (and egregious) as the poll results are, they do make sense considering my ranks are in many ways very different than my colleagues’ and ADP.
Onto the brief round-by-round analysis of a masterpiece not seen since van Gogh:
Round 1: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
My guy Derrick Henry was swooped one pick before me, but I’ll happily take Kamara, who still recorded 81 catches over 14 games last year despite playing on a leg that was only 75%. He’s the feature back for a team with the league’s most talented roster, is entering a contract year and ready to explode off an injury-plagued down season. Kamara is still just 24 years old and is one season removed from scoring 18 touchdowns in 15 games.
Round 2: Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals
This is only a 10-team league but having both Joe Mixon and Drake to choose from in Round 2 was surprising, as each are top-eight players on my board. Drake ranked No. 3 in rushing DVOA last year, is top-five in fantasy points per touch since 2017 and is going to absolutely crush in Arizona’s system. The Cardinals added DeAndre Hopkins in a trade (while losing David Johnson) and landed tackle Josh Jones in the draft, and the NFC West projects for a bunch of shootouts in 2020. Expect Drake to start costing a first-round fantasy pick in all leagues as the season approaches. I love the Drake.
Round 3: Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
The rookie has the pedigree of a top-five overall pick (before franchises got wiser and stopped drafting running backs in the first round) after averaging the most YFS in college football history. He joins an Indy team with arguably the NFL’s best offensive line that’s also getting a major upgrade at QB. Taylor will lose passing-down work to Nyheim Hines, but PFF ranked Marlon Mack 56th out of 57 RBs in blocking and as one of the worst receiving backs last year, so my level of concern about a timeshare is less than most.
The Colts get to face the Jags and Texans 25% of their schedule, so I’ll happily take Taylor late in the third round (for reference, the next RB taken was Devin Singletary, who’s not in the same universe as Taylor athletically and is sharing his backfield with incoming rookie Zack Moss and a quarterback who’s recorded the eighth-most rushing TDs among all players over the last two seasons). Given his situation and talent level, Taylor offers the upside to easily be the No. 1 overall pick in 2021 fantasy drafts, and all backs going at his current price have similar questions (without the same ceiling).
Round 4: DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers
I don’t love the uncertainty that comes with Carolina changing coaching staffs, but I’m fairly sure the Panthers will field one of the league’s worst defenses, and Teddy Bridgewater will certainly be an upgrade over Kyle Allen. The bet here is Curtis Samuel gets traded, and Moore is a clear star in the making who’s ready to explode in Year Three. His numbers were suppressed some last season thanks to leaving early after suffering a concussion in Week 16. Moore entered on a seven-game stretch in which he averaged 10.7 targets and 101.6 yards with three touchdowns despite extremely poor QB play and a teammate having an insanely productive season that’s going to be tough to repeat. Moore is the No. 6 WR on my board.
Round 5: Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
He saw 79 targets (for 52 catches and 663 yards) over the final seven games last year, and the offseason saw the Rams lose Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley while their defense continued to decline. Jared Goff is going to be far more valuable in fantasy terms than he will be for the Rams in 2020.
While I can’t condone the drafting of Leonard Fournette ahead of Raheem Mostert and James Conner this round, I will recommend this captivating longread, this new Everything Everything song, this recently released old demo from Oasis, and this Val Kilmer interview.
Round 6: Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins
He finished top-10 in WOPR last year as a rookie, and Dwayne Haskins showed real signs of improvement down the stretch (McLaurin could’ve scored a handful more TDs if not for shoddy QB play). Scary Terry is a freak athlete who somehow finished top-12 in yards per target despite Haskins ranking last among 33 qualified QBs in CPOE (sparing Tom Brady from finishing dead last). Put differently, McLaurin somehow ranked top-10 in Passer Rating when targeted despite ranking No. 85 in Target Accuracy. Moreover, McLaurin ranked No. 1 in Contested Catch Rate and No. 2 in Dominator Rating. He’s superstar material.
Washington surprisingly didn’t spend a ton of draft capital on receivers, so as much as I like Steven Sims as a sleeper, McLaurin is also looking at a massive target share as a sophomore. I’ve somehow come away with three top-15 WRs on my board here despite not drafting one until Round 4. And yet I got 4% of the vote!
Round 7: J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
He’s a perfect fit for the league’s best rushing system, with only a 30-year-old back who’s never eclipsed 230 carries in a season in front of him on the depth chart. The Ravens’ GM called Dobbins a “three-down back” whom they had graded as a first-rounder, and he led all top college backs in Yards Created. This is viewed as a crowded backfield, but Dobbins looks next-level and is an ideal fit on a Baltimore team that ran for 3,296 yards last season (the 49ers were second with 2,305). Dobbins keeps my young theme going, and he also possesses top-five overall upside given his situation, so he simply shouldn’t be available in Round 7.
Round 8: Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
He put up a 56-43-522-2 line over the final five games last season and watched Brandin Cooks leave during the offseason. Expect more 12 personnel from LA moving forward, and again, this is a Rams team in trouble that’s going to be playing a lot of catch up (at least it will be viewable on the team’s new double-sided video that looks awesome).
Round 9: Darius Slayton, New York Giants
I remain a Slayton guy, but there’s going to be a serious battle for targets in New York if the Giants stay healthy, and Daniel Jones projects as a far better fantasy quarterback than real-life one right now.
Round 10: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I’ve become more down on the Bucs’ offense since we held this draft, but at least I kept my young player theme with yet another rookie selection. However, I absolutely should’ve drafted CeeDee Lamb here, and hopefully, I’ll stop losing sleep over the mistake at some point this summer.
Round 11: Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints
He finished No. 1 among all running backs in Success Rate last year (Alexander Mattison finished last, for what it’s worth), and while he provides Kamara insurance for me, I’m all for drafting Murray aggressively even not as a handcuff. Given his situation/ability, he has “league-winning” upside if Kamara were to go down, and yet his price tag is much cheaper than washed backs like Todd Gurley and David Johnson (the odds of either being on any of my fantasy teams this year fall between slim and none). I rank Murray as a borderline top-30 RB, but he won’t cost near that.
Round 12: Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
He has a QB who finished top-five in fantasy points per dropback, No. 2 in AY/A, and played like a legit MVP candidate in the new Detroit offense last season and enters a contract year in which Jones plans to score 15 touchdowns. In eight games before Matthew Stafford got hurt, Jones recorded 42 catches for 535 yards and six touchdowns, which was remarkably similar to the much pricier Kenny Golladay, whose ADP is about 100 picks higher. Jones is a top-35 WR on my board, so Round 12 is robbery.
Round 13: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
A strong athlete who was a top-10 pick, Hockenson is ready to break out as a sophomore in an offense that features a QB in Matthew Stafford who was getting a whopping 8.6 YPA with 19 TD strikes over eight games in Detroit’s new system before going down with an injury. The tight end position is incredibly loaded this year with intriguing options unlike ever before.
Round 14: Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
I know what you’re thinking; a third stud tight end is overkill, but I only take what the draft gives me. One of the best tight end prospects in recent memory, Goedert had 55 targets compared to Zach Ertz’s 60 after Philly’s bye last year, and the Eagles still lack an alpha at wide receiver. The best-looking player in sports was swooped one pick in front of me.
Round 15: Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Round 16: Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts
He threw too many interceptions last season but was otherwise mostly the same QB, yet his cost has somehow dropped despite going from one of the worst offensive lines to one of the NFL’s best, and Rivers owns a career 8.0 YPA mark indoors (all on the road). The Chargers had fine weapons, but with T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell (check out his workout metrics), Nyheim Hines, and JTT in the backfield, Indy provides plenty as well.
Rounds 17/18/19: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles; NE D/ST; IND D/ST
A healthy Jackson is a perfect fit for Carson Wentz’s deep ball, and his boom-or-bust nature also becomes more valuable in Best Ball formats like this. However, the Eagles added a bunch of additional speed in the offseason, and Wentz is really just keeping Philadelphia’s seat warm for Jalen Hurts, who’s the real future of the franchise.
Round 20: Miles Boykin, Baltimore Ravens
I was set to draft Antonio Gibson, who’s one of my favorite sleepers but wasn’t allowed to thanks to reaching my “RB” limit, making him the first player in fantasy history to lose value for being multi-eligible. In hindsight, I should’ve taken a third quarterback here (especially now that I actually might check back on these results thanks to the ridiculous poll), but I was on tilt after Gibson-gate. I should’ve taken my guy Jarrett Stidham here instead.
This exercise involved certified professional fantasy analysts and plenty of capable drafters (and also Andy Behrens), but as you can all see, my team is the clear favorite to win the league, yet when given just four alternatives, 96% of people voted otherwise, further losing my faith in humanity.