Perfect Draft: 1st in a 12-Team ESPN PPR League
Heading into the 2018 season, the first dilemma 1.01 owners face is which high-volume running back to select. Todd Gurley’s monster end to 2017 is still fresh in our minds, but LeVeon Bell has an overall RB1 season on his resume as well as two top-three RB performances each of the past two seasons. David Johnson has 2,000-total-yard upside as well, as he also has an overall RB1 season to his name. Then there’s Ezekiel Elliott, who may have the highest touch upside of any in the bunch this season, with the Cowboys' utter lack of impressive pass-catching weapons. Zeke was the RB2 two seasons ago and RB3 in PPR fantasy points per game last season.
Editor's Note: Click here to see all our Perfect Draft series entries.
In this edition of the Perfect Draft Series, I'll be walking through a perfect draft from the first slot in a 12-team ESPN PPR league. Each pick was optimized using projections and value-based rankings from the 4for4 Draft Analyzer tool.
Draft Analyzer Settings
- Roster Settings: 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, TE, RB/WR/TE, K, DEF, seven bench spots.
- No QBs before the fifth round: I’m not considering drafting a quarterback until at least the fifth round, and that is only if the top signal-callers fall that far. In most drafts this season, I will be waiting until the eighth round or later for a quarterback, as I’m not satisfied with my RB and WR depth when I draft a QB earlier than that.
- No TEs before the third round: The third round is the earliest I would consider a TE, as the top three in the 4for4 rankings (Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz) do have top-200 rankings inside the top 24. If you look at our PPR TE rankings, you will see a significant gap between those three and the rest of the field of TEs this season.
Only two players have a projected weekly output of more than 20 points—Gurley and LeVeon Bell. With Bell’s holdout ongoing and Gurley having just locked up a long-term contract, he is the safer pick here among the bell cow running backs at the top of drafts this season. Gurley also crushed the competition last season, averaging 2.8 fantasy points per game more than Bell.
It’s interesting to see Antonio Brown was recommended higher than Ezekiel Elliott in PPR by Draft Analyzer and actually is projected for a couple of more points than David Johnson. To me, he is the safest pick in an elite offense outside of Gurley with holdout questions surrounding Bell and offensive concerns with the Cardinals and Cowboys this season.
When you’re picking at either of the bookends in drafts, sometimes you are going to have to reach for a player who does not have an average draft position (ADP) that high but simply will not make it all the way back around to you 24 picks later. That’s the case here with Larry Fitzgerald. His elite level of targets appears safe with no clear No. 2 in Arizona. RB David Johnson will likely be second on the team in receptions.
While Doug Baldwin, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs have higher ADPs, Fitzgerald is our top projected WR remaining at this point in PPR leagues. If Baldwin did not have a knee injury that will likely keep him out of practice for a few weeks, I would have highly considered him, due to Seattle’s loss of targets from last season’s roster. Let’s see what taking Fitzgerald early does to the rest of our roster.
If you do not take one of the elite tight ends in the third round here, you simply are not going to get one of them at the end of the fourth round. We have Travis Kelce projected slightly ahead of Zach Ertz and Rob Gronkowski, but I think we can all agree Gronk’s yearly touchdown upside is much higher than his elite TE rivals. So I decided to chase that ceiling here.
Looking at our projections, even Gronk being ranked TE3 has him projected for 56 points more than the next closest tight end. You will not find a bigger gap in projected points between two players back-to-back in their positional rankings anywhere this season. That’s a potentially significant edge at TE in your weekly starting lineup against most of your league mates.
Golden Tate is a PPR specialist. He is not an incredibly efficient receiver, but the Lions present a high-volume passing attack with Matthew Stafford targeting Tate frequently on short-to-intermediate routes. That makes him less useful in standard leagues (WR23) versus PPR (WR14).
It’s also interesting to note taking the QB1 Aaron Rodgers at this point can be justified, according to Draft Analyzer. However, it is against my draft strategy to pull the trigger that early. The drop from Tate to the next receiver, Michael Crabtree, for our WR2 would be from WR14 to WR22. We now have the overall RB1 in Gurley and two top-15 WRs to go along with an elite TE.
Continue reading to see how the rest of Steve's roster shakes out and to see which picks he deemed to be the best and worst values of the draft, as well as any final takeaways that may help you on draft day...
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