Fantasy Take-Fest, Part I: When picking NFL, MLB and NBA players in a 3-sport super draft, who's most valuable?

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The “League of Leagues” is a three-sport fantasy format that features baseball, football, and basketball. I get it’s generally not the most exciting thing to read a draft recap, so consider this more of an excuse for me to give hot takes (and throw out some sick burns to friends in the industry) on all things sports (and some non-sports) during this uncertain time. This is part one of five.

My Yahoo Fantasy Hoops podcast partner Andy Behrens joined the league for the first time, and (my other podcast partner) RotoWire’s Chris Liss is my co-manager in name only. Others in the league include (but not limited to) Brad Evans (with Brandon Funston), Will Brinson, Pat Mayo, Cousin Sal, Adam Rank, and The Miz.

Winners of each sport are awarded, but the grand prize goes to the overall champ (accumulating the most total points across the three sports). There’s a small keeper aspect (six players), but it’s mostly straight-forward otherwise. The benches are kept minimal, as the draft itself is already 50-plus rounds with 14 teams (it lasted 10 hours and 13 minutes).

Scoring: MLB uses OBP instead of BA (roto), NFL is 0.5 PPR and NBA is 8-cat roto.

Here are the results (my picks in bold), followed by my round-by-round commentary:

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/30972/" data-ylk="slk:Saquon Barkley">Saquon Barkley</a>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4896/" data-ylk="slk:Kawhi Leonard">Kawhi Leonard</a>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/27581/" data-ylk="slk:Davante Adams">Davante Adams</a>, <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9571/" data-ylk="slk:Trevor Story">Trevor Story</a> joined Dalton Del Don's fantasy super team. (Photos by Al Bello/Sean M. Haffey/Gregory Shamus/Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Saquon Barkley, Kawhi Leonard, Davante Adams, Trevor Story joined Dalton Del Don's fantasy super team. (Photos by Al Bello/Sean M. Haffey/Gregory Shamus/Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

ROUND ONE

1. James Harden

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo

3. Anthony Davis  

4. LeBron James

5. Karl-Anthony Towns  

6. Nikola Jokic

7. Christian McCaffrey

8. Saquon Barkley    

9. Bradley Beal  

10. Damian Lillard  

11. Mike Trout    

12. Kevin Durant

13. Jayson Tatum

14. Stephen Curry   

Saquon Barkley was just the third rookie ever to record 2,000 yards from scrimmage, when he also broke the running back rookie record with 91 receptions and scored 15 touchdowns, including the fastest TD run of the 2018 season. Put differently, Barkley had more 40-plus yard plays during his rookie season alone than Ezekiel Elliott has had during his entire career.

Barkley then totaled 256 yards (7.8 YPC) and a score with a clearly done Eli Manning at QB over the first two games last season before suffering a high-ankle sprain that affected the rest of his year. The RB’s workout metrics are truly “generational,” and frankly, I prefer buying off a down year than at apex (looking at you CMC, who’s seeing a lot of changes on offense). The Giants have an extremely intriguing group of young skill position players and are favored to draft tackle Mekhi Becton or Jedrick Wills with the No. 4 pick, so give me Barkley over Christian McCaffrey — making him the No. 1 player on my overall fantasy board.

As usual, basketball dominated the first round with the first six picks all hoops. The thinking being the stars contribute more than any baseball player could (where one player can help in only half the categories at most, and there are more roster spots) while also being more reliable than volatile football players.

But while there’s greater injury risk with a running back, they are also capable of contributing the most to your fantasy team at any position in any sport.

The questionable Round 1 pick was Kevin Durant, who’s recovering from a torn Achilles and will be entering a rather uncertain situation in Brooklyn.

Counting the postseason, LeBron James has now played the third-most minutes in NBA history. He was averaging career-highs in Usage Rate and Assist Rate while ranking No. 4 in the league in Defensive Real Plus-Minus before the NBA had to abruptly stop its season in March. Remarkable.

ROUND TWO   

15. Ezekiel Elliott   

16. Michael Thomas        

17. Alvin Kamara   

18. Christian Yelich  

19. Russell Westbrook     

20. Joel Embiid        

21. Kawhi Leonard   

22. Cody Bellinger

23. Devin Booker

24. Kristaps Porzingis

25. Francisco Lindor

26. Mookie Betts

27. Paul George

28. DeAndre Hopkins

Michael Thomas feels like a steal here, as does Christian Yelich in OBP … Kawhi Leonard had been the No. 4 fantasy player in 8-cat leagues this year, quietly averaging career-highs in PPG, RPG, APG, 3PT and Usage Rate while also rocking his own jersey while on vacation in Cabo.

Michael Thomas was second in fantasy scoring for non-QBs in 2019, bested only by Christian McCaffrey. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Michael Thomas was second in fantasy scoring for non-QBs in 2019, bested only by Christian McCaffrey. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

ROUND THREE

29. Tyreek Hill

30. Donovan Mitchell

31. Dalvin Cook

32. Andre Drummond

33. John Collins

34. Trea Turner

35. Rudy Gobert

36. Davante Adams   

37. Nikola Vucevic

38. Joe Mixon

39. Aaron Jones

40. Jacob deGrom

41. Zion Williamson (keeper)

42. Deandre Ayton

Davante Adams was slowed by a serious turf toe injury last year but is a TD machine who’s going to continue to see a ton of targets from Aaron Rodgers. He’s the No. 2 WR on my board … I’ll let someone else gamble on Dalvin Cook staying healthy at his price. Fun fact: Cook had the fewest air yards (-94) in the NFL last year ... John Collins is a fantasy monster, and the secret is out.

The Miz followed LeBron James with Francisco Lindor and Andre Drummond. He also happens to be from the Cleveland area.

Zion Williamson was an aggressive keeper here, but there’s obvious upside once the defensive stats start to come — and they will … Joe Mixon is rightfully shooting up draft boards with the (likely) addition of Joe Burrow, who’s PFF’s highest-graded college prospect ever. Mixon will also get a boost with LT Jonah Williams’ return, and Team Mayo/Meaney made a statement taking Cincy’s back ahead of Aaron Jones.

ROUND FOUR

43. Nolan Arenado

44. Julio Jones

45. Jimmy Butler

46. Zach LaVine

47. Khris Middleton

48. Trae Young (keeper)

49. Kenyan Drake

50. Kyrie Irving

51. Jamal Murray

52. Alex Bregman

53. Freddie Freeman

54. Chris Godwin

55. Max Scherzer

56. Travis Kelce

Kenyan Drake is now the unquestioned lead back on an exciting and fast-paced offense that’s adding DeAndre Hopkins during Year 2 of Kyler Murray. Over eight games with Arizona last season while learning a new system (and with David Johnson around), Drake totaled 814 yards with eight touchdowns, showing he’s a perfect fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s system. There will be safer options with longer track records available, but Drake is the No. 6 RB on my board and worth a first-round fantasy pick (but he might be available in the second). I love the Drake.

Trae Young is a great offensive player and worthy of a first-round fantasy pick in 2020/21, but he’s also definitively the NBA’s worst defender, ranking 503 out of 503 in Real Plus-Minus.

ROUND FIVE

57. Bryce Harper

58. Stephen Strasburg

59. Jose Ramirez

60. Kemba Walker

61. Anthony Rendon

62. Justin Verlander

63. J.D. Martinez

64. Miles Sanders

65. Andrew Wiggins

66. Klay Thompson

67. Ben Simmons

68. Leonard Fournette

69. Jrue Holiday

70. Mike Evans

Maybe Miles Sanders was a reach here, but a top fantasy back simply has the potential to contribute unrivaled value comparatively. The Eagles don’t typically use a true workhorse and will likely add further RB depth through the draft and/or free agency, but Jordan Howard is gone, and Sanders is their main guy moving forward.

In a limited role as a rookie, Sanders recorded 50 catches for 509 receiving yards, and he gets to run behind an offensive line that PFF just graded as the best run-blocking unit in 2019. It won’t take 300-plus touches for a talented back like Sanders to put up huge numbers in this system, so he’s a top-12 RB on my board.

Anthony Rendon signed a big contract coming off a career-year and is going from one of baseball’s three best hitter’s parks in Washington to one of the league’s most favorable pitcher’s parks (especially tough on RHB) in Anaheim. I’d rather Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — even at the same cost.

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As a 21-year-old, Bryce Harper posted a 197 wRC+, which is a number never reached by Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Manny Ramirez, Hank Aaron or Willie Mays during any season in their careers(*). With a swing that’s exactly like Babe Ruth’s, it’s safe to say Harper hasn’t lived up to expectations since. Harper is still just 27 years old, plays in one of the best home parks for left-handed power and has a ceiling that remains the No. 1 fantasy hitter.

(*) Barry Bonds bested the mark five separate times while often seeing only a few hittable pitches per game and playing in the toughest home park for lefty power in MLB (modern) history. From 2002-2004, Bonds had a 249:146 IBB:K ratio.

As in, he was intentionally walked 100-plus more times than he struck out over a three-season span.

The team with the most intentional walks last season totaled 47. If you took every one of Bonds’ all-time leading 762 home runs and turned them into outs, he’d still have a better career OBP than Alex Rodriguez and Hank Aaron.

Never forget Klay Thompson scored 37 points in a quarter without missing a shot, is the only player ever to score 60 points in a game in fewer than 30 minutes (and did it while taking 11 dribbles), had one of the greatest performances in an elimination game in NBA history, and knows his scaffolding.

Volume is king when it comes to fantasy football (and especially projections), but it can also be a red flag when someone gets all of it without much success like Leonard Fournette did last year. He was no doubt unlucky in the TD department, but Fournette graded as No. 52 out of 56 running backs by PFF and ranked No. 46 in Juke Rate. Fournette has poor hands, struggles mightily blocking and has an extensive injury history, so he’s not a top-15 RB on my board.

ROUND SIX

71. Charlie Blackmon

72. Kyle Lowry

73. Amari Cooper

74. JuJu Smith-Schuster

75. Todd Gurley

76. Ozzie Albies

77. Chris Paul

78. Starling Marte

79. D.J. Moore

80. Tobias Harris

81. Gerrit Cole (keeper)

82. Odell Beckham Jr.

83. Victor Oladipo

84. Jonathan Isaac

JuJu Smith-Schuster is younger than Courtland Sutton, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, and Christian Kirk. Ben Roethlisberger finally underwent surgery and is “throwing without pain for the first time in years.” There was a reason some were ranking Smith-Schuster as a top-three fantasy WR last year with Antonio Brown (and Le’Veon Bell) gone and him just becoming the youngest player in NFL history to record 110 catches and 1,400 receiving yards in a season. JJSS is the No. 8 WR on my board.

Todd Gurley ranked last among 39 running backs in yards per route run last season, but he picked a perfect landing spot in Atlanta to continue having fantasy value. Gurley could score a lot of touchdowns in that Falcons offense (where they are set to start 10 first rounders this season) and with Julio Jones allergic to the end zone and Austin Hooper gone. That said, I’d still rather Darrell Henderson on my fantasy team.

I was all in on Odell Beckham Jr. and Baker Mayfield last year, but I was very wrong. OBJ is injury prone, may or may not be unhappy again in his situation, and has to share targets (from an extremely shaky quarterback) with Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt and newcomer Austin Hooper — while also sharing touchdowns with Nick Chubb.

Beckham hasn’t reached 1,100 yards, 80 catches or seven touchdowns since 2016, and he was legitimately a worse weekly option than Landry last season. The Browns addressed their offensive line by adding RT Jack Conklin (and getting rid of Freddie Kitchens helps), but they also have to face the Ravens and Steelers in 25 percent of their games. Beckham’s air yards last year were encouraging, but given his situation (it’s extremely worrisome how much Mayfield struggled out of a clean pocket, and Beckham didn’t even lead his own team in targets), I’m out at his price.

ROUND SEVEN

85. Clayton Kershaw

86. Jaren Jackson Jr.

87. Anthony Rizzo

88. Chris Carson

89. DeMar DeRozan

90. Jose Altuve

91. LaMarcus Aldridge

92. Trevor Story (keeper)  

93. Javier Baez

94. Luis Castillo

95. Zack Greinke

96. Xander Bogaerts

97. Kris Bryant

98. Julius Randle

Clayton Kershaw no longer possesses the same upside he once did as his generation’s best pitcher, but the tradeoff to throwing less hard appears to be better health. It also helps to pitch for a Dodgers team that provides a bunch of run support, a strong defense and bullpen, the NL West, and a pitcher’s park. Kershaw visited Driveline during the offseason and reportedly his health feels “night and day” compared to last season, which started off slowly thanks to injuries but saw him post a 31.1 K% after the All-Star break. He’s my SP5, ahead of Jack Flaherty.

Luis Castillo oddly has a top-12 ADP among SPs despite posting a 4.30 ERA two years ago and a 4.78 ERA during the second half of last season. He ran hot during the first half, recording a 2.29 ERA despite an ugly 53 walks over 106 innings (.224 BABIP). Castillo is a very good pitcher who’s mistakenly being treated as a great one in fantasy drafts. He’s not a top-25 SP on my board.

ROUND EIGHT

99. Le’Veon Bell

100. Yoan Moncada

101. Buddy Hield

102. Charlie Morton

103. George Springer

104. CJ McCollum

105. Robert Covington     

106. Allen Robinson

107. Aaron Judge

108. Blake Snell

109. Cooper Kupp

110. Lonzo Ball

111. Jonas Valanciunas

112. Mark Ingram

I love Robert Covington in category leagues in Houston, but I’ll probably strongly regret passing up on Lonzo Ball here. The light bulb has turned on, and he’s going to be a fantasy star for years to come …Behrens grabbed Mark Ingram here (over Damien Williams), but I much prefer Justice Hill in Round 44. I fully expect Hill to be one of my 2021 keepers with Ingram on the wrong side of 30 and regression hitting (five TD catches on 14 targets during the second half). Hill led Baltimore RBs in snaps in the playoffs, sports a 40 time and Burst Score in the 95th percentile and a Speed Score in the 81st percentile, and in that system, giddy-up.

Cousin Sal and Brian Gewirtz are Mets fans, so I can only assume their NY bias contributed to the pick of Le’Veon BellCharlie Morton >>> Luis Castillo Yoan Moncada is a monster and will finish with more fantasy value than Kris Bryant, Anthony Rendon, Matt Olson, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Austin Meadows.  

Allen Robinson had the sixth most air yards and ranked No. 3 in WOPR last season, so he’s someone to buy with the Bears (almost certainly) moving on from Mitch Trubisky. Nick Foles is hardly above league-average, but he’s probably now the best quarterback of Robinson’s career. ARob is a top-10 WR on my board.  

DALTON’S BONUS TAKES

My Favorite 2020 TV Shows (so far) (here are my 2019 TV Rankings):

1. Curb Your Enthusiasm

2. Better Call Saul

3. Devs

4. Tiger King

5. Ozark

6. Homeland

7. Mythic Quest

8. High Fidelity

9. The New Pope

10. BoJack Horseman

11. Survivor

12. Love Is Blind

13. Little Fires Everywhere

14. Brockmire

15. Beef House

DDD’s Music Picks: Kurt Vile – “Loading Zones” ... TORRES – “Good Scare” ... Bach - “The Best of Bach” ... Stephen Malkmus – “Shadowbanned” ... Destroyer – “It Just Doesn’t Happen” & “Cue Synthesizer” ... The Good, The Bad & The Queen – “Herculean”

Here’s a classic Longread: “The Chameleon”

Part 1Part 2 Part 3Part 4 | Part 5

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