On Thursday night, I participated in the NFFC’s Best Ball Championship tournament against 10 hardcore NFFC high-stakes players, plus our good friend and former MLB pitcher Brad Ziegler, who has hung up his cleats after an amazing career and is now a fantasy football analysts for The Athletic.
The draft is 35 rounds with a third-round reversal and PPR scoring. The weekly top-scoring QB (1), RBs (2), WRs (3), FLEX (1), TE (1), a team kicker (1), and a team D/ST (1) make up starting rosters.
You can view the final draft board, and all future Draft Boards from our drafts here.
Pick 1 (3rd Overall) - Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Dal) - I considered Alvin Kamara, but the potency of the Cowboy offense has me believing Zeke could score 15+ TDs this year.
Pick 2 (22nd Overall) - Melvin Gordon (RB, Den) - You have to get in on RBs early and often right now, and that’s what I did. I probably should have targeted Phillip Lindsay, who went in the 11th round, but I didn’t feel a pressing need to get him, in part because of what I did to secure RBs in rounds 5-6.
Pick 3 (34th Overall) - Allen Robinson (WR, Chi) - As expected, the RB talent has dropped off considerably, so I had to grab a major target monger at WR in the underrated A-Rob.
Pick 4 (39th Overall) - Odell Beckham (WR, Cle) - Some risk, but also clear upside for a guy who was a top-15 pick overall last year and who actually played all 16 games. If he can remain available, he’ll undoubtedly deliver strong results for a 4th rounder. I did seriously consider Calvin Ridley here.
Pick 5 (58th Overall) - Mark Ingram (RB, Bal) - I considered David Montgomery, but then realized I could probably lock up the Ravens backfield with my next pick six picks later, and I liked that plan.
Pick 6 (63rd Overall) - JK Dobbins (RB, Bal) - It’s best-ball, so I thought Dobbins was worth taking this early now that I already had Ingram. He could be an unproductive backup this year, but that’s not a tragedy, since that will likely mean that Ingram is getting it done. If Ingram is hurt and misses time, I likely have a league-winner in Dobbins.
Pick 7 (82nd Overall) - Carson Wentz (QB, Phi) - I noticed in Graham Barfield’s draft two days earlier, there was a noticeable QB run around this spot, and there was in this draft, too. I got Wentz as the 11th QB off the board, which I thought was solid value. I’m not that worried about Jalen Hurts taking much away from Wentz, but I did take Hurts for good measure way later.
Pick 8 (87th Overall) - Diontae Johnson (WR, Pit) - This was a little bit of an overpay, but if you like a guy in a draft like this you need to be proactive, and I love Johnson. He was the 34th WR off the board, and we actually have him as WR31 (I had him higher than that, but the guys talked me into moving him down a little).
Pick 9 (106th Overall) - Joe Burrow (QB, Cin) - I noticed that Graham Barfield got pinched a little at QB earlier in the week in this same 35-round draft, so I made sure it didn’t happen to me, especially with Wentz having some lingering availability concerns. The next QB off the board six picks later was Drew Lock, so I obviously didn’t grossly overpay for Burrow.
Pick 10 (111th Overall) - Christian Kirk (WR, Ari) - I got pinched here myself, as my lined up pick was TE Hayden Hurst, who went one pick in front of me. I was a little flustered as I was also hosting the livestream, so this pick may not have been optimal. That said, I do love Kirk’s talents, and he should have 2-3 big games while getting better matchups with D-Hop on board. Kirk did have a 3-TD game last year. I probably should have settled on another TE, like Rob Gronkowski here. That was my biggest regret in this draft, not getting a TE I loved in Hurst.
Pick 11 (130th Overall) - Eric Ebron (TE, Pit) - My TE situation got worse with even my guy TJ Hockenson off the board before this pick, so I had to make a move. Ebron is very TD-dependent, but I could see him scoring 7-8 TDs here, since they are definitely looking to get an athletic TE in the mix.
Pick 12 (135th Overall) - Chase Edmonds (RB, Ari) - I had some other upside RBs to choose from here, like Boston Scott, but I opted for Edmonds, who showcased his potential Week 7 last year with a stat-line of 27/126/3 rushing. I do love The Drake, but The Drake is a guy who’s had a wide range of outcomes in his short career. He’s been great at times, but he’s been a huge disappointment for fantasy other times, all within the last two seasons.
Pick 13 (154th Overall) - Breshad Perriman (WR, NYJ) - I watched him very closely late last season and thought he was fantastic overall, and his confidence was at an all-time high in the NFL this past December. Perriman is locked into a large role and has an obvious experience advantage over rookie Denzel Mims, which could mean more than usual this year.
Pick 14 (159th Overall) - Jack Doyle (TE, Ind) - I had a problem at TE, so I dialed up Jack Doyle, who I know I can count on for solid production if I need him. He should be good for 60+ catches; and with Philip Rivers in at QB and a so-so receiving corps overall still, he could log 70-80 grabs (he had 80 in 15 games in 2017).
Pick 15 (179th Overall) - Chris Herndon (TE, NYJ) - Still playing catch up at TE, Herndon was the best available option in terms of having a chance to break out and surprise with strong numbers.
Pick 16 (183rd Overall) - Ryquell Armstead (RB, Jac) - The Jags hate Leonard Fournette and tried to move him this offseason with no takers, and Armstead is a Fournette incident or injury away from being the guy, which made him a good BB stash-and-hope pick.
Pick 17 (202nd Overall) - Desean Jackson (WR, Phi) - It’s best ball, and this dude turned 10 targets into 8/154/2 last year. And we’re 200 picks into the draft. If he can manage to play even 10 games, he’s a good bet to go off 2-3 times. That’s more than enough to merit this late pick.
Pick 18 (207th Overall) - Eno Benjamin (RB, Ari) - I had him queued up because I previously took Chase Edmonds, but I actually got auto-picked here (probably distracted again hosting the livestream), but this isn’t terrible. If Kenyan Drake gets hurt, the guy who took him 7th overall is officially screwed because I now have Drake’s handcuff and his handcuff’s handcuff. Both Edmonds and Benjamin can do a lot in the passing game, which is key in Arizona.
Pick 19 (226th Overall) - Justin Herbert (QB, LAC) - I probably waited a little too long for my QB3, and my choices were quite slim at this point (Mitch Trubisky went a round later as the next QB off the board). I’d have to think Herbert will end up starting half their games at least, and he does have some upside with his running and big arm.
Pick 20 (231st Overall) - Philadelphia Eagles (DT, Phi) - I waited too long on a defense, as these guys were the 14th off the board.
Pick 21 (250th Overall) - Green Bay Packers (DT, GB) - Playing catch up on the defenses, obviously. Could have been worse with these two units certainly having a chance to finish in the top half of the league, at least.
Pick 22 (255th Overall) - Josh Reynolds (WR, LAR) - Merely my 7th WR, the Rams like Reynolds a lot, which is part of the reason they let Brandin Cooks go, and his upside increases considerably if they have an injury in front of him.
Pick 23 (274th Overall) - Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR, Was) - I love the value here for a likely starter on the outside for the Redskins. AGG may be a little raw, but his physical tools and a large role could still translate to production in year one.
Pick 24 (279th Overall) - Justice Hill (RB, Bal) - I didn’t get Gus Edwards, but the Ravens are likely to keep four RBs, and I now have three of the four and also a guy in Hill who brings something different to the table than the other three: speed and juice.
Pick 25 (298th Overall) - Giants Kicker (PK, NYG) - I also waited too long on my kicker, but Aldrick Rosas was quite productive in 2018, and the Giant offense is definitely ascending.
Pick 26 (301st Overall) - Raiders Kicker (PK, LV) - Still playing catch up here; Daniel Carlson is pretty decent and the Raider offense is also ascending.
Pick 27 (322nd Overall) - Jalen Hurts (QB, Phi) - He’s probably not the #2 to open the season, but I do have Carson Wentz and I’m not ruling out 1-2 impact games from Hurts in a small specialty role, especially in the red zone.
Pick 28 (327th Overall) - Tyler Johnson (WR, TB) - He may not see the field much in year one, but Bruce Arians loves this guy and he has a nice future as a slot guy, so he was a worthy selection.
Pick 29 (346th Overall) - Albert Okwuegbunam (TE, Den) - I like this kid a lot, and he was a TD machine and college and ran really well at the combine. Noah Fant has a lot of juice, but also shaky hands, so Albert O may sneak in a good game or two.
Pick 30 (351st Overall) - Trent Taylor (WR, SF) - Kyle Shanahan loves this guy and he told me at the combine that Taylor was their best player in camp before he got hurt last summer. So Taylor has a very good chance to be on the field in 3-WR sets.
Pick 31 (370th Overall) - Devin Asiasi (TE, NE) - I don’t have a great TE, so what the hell… might as well load up on upside guys with potential. Asiasi actually has an easier path to relevance than Albert O, and he was the second TE selected in the NFL draft. That surprised many, but not me since I had gotten the word at the combine that he was a scout’s favorite. I also interviewed him and he told me he takes a lot of pride in his blocking, so I was not surprised the Pats took him, considering his athleticism.
Pick 32 (375th Overall) - John Hightower (WR, Phi) - Our guy Greg Cosell is very high on this guy, and he’s something of a handcuff for my Desean Jackson pick.
Pick 33 (394th Overall) - Raymond Calais (RB, TB) - I was a little surprised he was still on the board, since he could potentially grab a changeup and/or 3rd down role, and his speed could help him get some snaps.
Pick 34 (399th Overall) - Taysom Hill (QB, NO) - Why the F not in the 34th round?
Pick 35 (418th Overall) - DaeSean Hamilton (WR, Den) - Got auto-picked, wanted KeeSean Johnson. I don’t even know what happened, and in Round 35, I should have not cared, yet this was a buzzkill.
Final Thoughts, Lessons Learned, Etc
I was pleased overall with the draft, and I accomplished a few key things I wanted to, such as:
I was pretty aggressive on RBs, taking four with my first six picks, and I took as many good ones as possible without sacrificing much at WR and QB.
I made sure I got what I felt was a strong starting QB in Carson Wentz and a strong QB2 in Joe Burrow.
Most of the players I took were upside-oriented, except for Jack Doyle.
If I could do it all over again -- and I will be doing plenty more of these -- I can probably perfect my best-ball plan by making a few adjustments:
I did set myself up well at QB with Wentz and Burrow, but if I could do it all over again knowing what I know now, I would have taken Hunter Henry in the 9th over Burrow and come back with Ben Roethlisberger over Christian Kirk in the 10th. Of course, I did what I did because I thought I could get my guy Hayden Hurst in the 10th, and I missed that by one pick.
So, I’ll need to be a little more aggressive on TE, and I may even target Evan Engram, who was a solid value in the 9th round here. I have little faith in Engram staying healthy, but he’s a league winner type if he can finally stay available. Otherwise, I’ll be sure to grab the best TE value on the board in Hayden Hurst, by the 9th round.
It’s probably not a bad idea to be a little more proactive on taking my defense and will target my favorite this year (and last year), the Pittsburgh Steelers, or the Baltimore Ravens, around 150 picks in. There were some nice upside picks taken off the board around when the first 2-3 defenses were taken (like my guy Jace Sternberger), but most of the other picks were just okay. I had some second-tier DTs lined up in the 20th round like Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Chicago, but they all went right in front of me, so I should have been a little more aggressive.
Similarly, I should have been a little more aggressive on my kickers, but they at least use team kickers, which lessons downside. I did at least get two decent team options in the NYG and LV in the 25th and 26th rounds. I may be more than fine at kicker, but I’d feel a little better overall if I had a kicker or two I felt very good about.
So to wrap this up, my priorities doing a best-ball draft are as follows:
- Get as many good RB options as I can in the first 3-6 rounds.
- Get value at QB by passing on the top 6-7 options, but also make sure I get at least one QB I feel very good about, like I did with Carson Wentz.
- Take a similar approach at TE and target Hayden Hurst as the best value on the board. I’d also like to draft two young TEs with upside in the hope that one of them pops, like Mike Gesicki, TJ Hockenson, and Jace Sternberger.
- Get at least one high-end WR, preferably two, but don’t use too many early picks on WR due to the great depth at that position. For example, I only used two of my first seven picks on WR, yet I still have a strong group with Allen Robinson, Odell Beckham, Diontae Johnson, Christian Kirk, and Breshad Perriman as my top-5.
- Try to get a higher-end option at DT and PK without taking a noticeable hit at another position.
- Keep an eye on some perennially underrated veterans like Marvin Jones and Duke Johnson 100-150 picks into the draft.
- But after that, focus on upside starting around 140-150 picks into the draft by targeting strong stash-and-hope RBs like Chase Edmonds and Ryquell Armstead and boom-or-bust veteran WRs like DeSean Jackson, plus younger wideouts with promising skill sets like Antonio Gandy-Golden.
- Since I’ll likely have 6+ RBs and WRs, I'll do my best to make sure injuries or horrible seasons by a specific team or two won’t destroy my chances of winning at QB and TE by drafting viable options for my third QB and TE spot.