Perfect Draft: 1st in a 16-Team ESPN PPR League
I went with the last pick in my first Perfect Draft article, so I thought I’d flip it completely around and go with the first pick in this one. I also chose a 16-team league, because 14 teams and 16 teams dramatically impact my draft strategy. While I’m typically a big fan of waiting on the TE and QB positions, in a large league, I believe in really trying to take advantage of value where you can find it. This is especially the case when you draft from near the bookend positions, as so many players will be off the board before your pick next. If you can snatch an elite-level player, you jump on the opportunity, regardless of position. I like large leagues and any league that allows you to get deep into the depth charts during the draft. Finding that diamond in the rough late in the draft might be one of the most satisfying things in fantasy sports, and the deeper the league, the more gratifying the find.
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 16-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, 3WR, 1TE, 1 Flex, K, DEF, six bench spots.
- No quarterbacks before the sixth round: I like to wait on a quarterback, generally, but in a 16-team league, value is so important. If there’s an elite quarterback dropping to the sixth round, I want Draft Analyzer to let me know about it.
- Holding a Grudge: Sometimes you just don’t want to draft certain players. It could be that you finally drafted a tight end higher than the eighth round and got burned by it last year (cough… Greg Olsen… cough). Maybe you just have no faith that Rob Gronkowski will stay healthy long enough to warrant his lofty draft status? Maybe you’re the only person on the planet who hates Jerick McKinnon? Perhaps you think Adam Thielen is coming off a career-year that won’t be replicated, and thus you have no interest in him at his current ADP? I like that Draft Analyzer allows me to take these players off my draft board completely, and every season there are a few players I like to remove from consideration.
- No Kicker or Defense until the last two rounds: There’s just no reason to take a defense or a kicker until the last two rounds, even in such a large league. If I end up with the 16th-ranked kicker and defense, it won’t impact how I feel about the draft. Defenses vary heavily year to year, and the difference between the top kickers and the players available on waivers each week is usually so small it isn’t worth investing much in the position during the draft.
Draft Analyzer is recommending Todd Gurley, and even though I got burnt by drafting Gurley first overall two years ago, he’s the clear top option going into this season. LeVeon Bell is still concerned about his contract and David Johnson is coming off a wrist injury that wiped out most of his 2017 season. As a result, I gladly take Gurley with my first pick. Gurley gets a full workload every week and caught 64 passes last season. He should continue to be the focal point on an emerging Rams offense and is the safest option for the first pick.
In a 16-team league, you must get your first pick right, and while Antonio Brown is tempting because of his consistent production, the running back position is too shallow this year to entertain drafting a receiver with the first pick. Gurley is the only real option.
For rounds two and three, all the top running backs are off the board, as are the elite receivers. As a result, Draft Analyzer recommends Zach Ertz to me. In most leagues, I wouldn’t dream of taking a tight end so high, but in a 16-team league, any edge you can get at a position is worth considering. After looking at the available options, all WR2 and fringe RB2 players, I decided to take the suggestion and lock up one of the top tight ends in the league.
There are three tight ends in the league that are clearly above everyone else: Ertz, Rob Gronkowski, and Travis Kelce. They all give your fantasy team a significant advantage over your opponents. By drafting Ertz, I now have elite players at both running back and tight end, which is more useful to me in a large league than taking a second- or third-rate player at another position.
I still don’t like the running backs available with Alex Collins leading the group of available players. Draft Analyzer recommends I take one of the remaining receivers, all second-tier guys. While Draft Analyzer recommends Larry Fitzgerald specifically, I like the upside of Stefon Diggs with Kirk Cousins as the new starting quarterback for the Vikings. Diggs, Golden Tate, T.Y. Hilton, and Allen Robinson were all recommended, and any one of them would be good value here. Diggs is just my favorite of the group.
I feel pretty good about locking up an elite running back, an elite tight end, and a high-upside receiver with my first three picks, knowing that 30 more players will be off the board by the time it gets back to me. While Aaron Rodgers would also be a consideration here for the same reason I took Zach Ertz with my second pick, I love the depth at quarterback so much this year that I feel comfortable setting my Draft Plan to avoid the position before the sixth round.
There were 11 more running backs taken between my last pick and this one. As a result, with my fourth- and fifth-round picks, I want to take a pair of the remaining running backs. Optimal Team shows value at the receiver position later and Draft Analyzer recommends a running back here, anyway. While Rex Burkhead is very good value here in a PPR format, I personally prefer the electrifying Tarik Cohen.
Cohen should be successful with Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich running things. He only had three touchdowns and 723 total yards from scrimmage last season. However, I think natural progression from Mitch Trubisky and the new coaching staff will mean good things for the Bears playmakers. Cohen was targeted 71 times and caught 53 passes last season, and I think he’ll continue to be a very active part of the passing game. He’s a high-upside, low-risk option in PPR formats.
Continue reading to see how the rest of Brandon'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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