Perfect Draft: 6th in a 12-Team ESPN Standard League
I feel like the middle of the draft order is the most difficult this year. With Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon threatening hold outs and Todd Gurley carrying medical question marks, picks four through eight present the difficult decision of whether to gamble on a running back, or to take an elite receiver. While many have been advocating the zero-RB strategy for years now, I’ve always had the old-school mentality of prioritizing a running back early on. This season, the middle range is where I’ve finally started to genuinely consider it. The back of the draft can get you James Conner, the front of the draft can get you one of Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley or Alvin Kamara, but the middle is a murky tide pool of hidden dangers. It’s hard to know exactly what you’ll end up with when you reach in.
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 6th slot in a 12-team standard ESPN 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, 1 WR/RB/TE, TE, K, DEF, seven bench spots.
- No QBs before the 7th round: Sometimes I’ll keep an eye on an elite quarterback dropping past the fourth round, but the position seems to get deeper and deeper every year, making it hard for me to forego a running back or receiver to reach on a passer. In this draft, I’m drawing a line and not taking one before round seven.
- Guys I like: I love that Draft Analyzer allows me to target specific players I want, and includes nice reminders during the draft to tell me when I need to grab them. The value doesn’t always add up to the draft position, but I can make that decision when the time comes. This year, I’m really high on Kenny Golladay taking a huge step, Dante Pettis being a valuable standard league option due to his big-play ability and Carson Wentz as a potential steal late in the draft. For this mock, I’ve asked Draft Analyzer to target these three.
- Guys I don’t like: Conversely, I also like to remove players from my draft board. That’s not to say I wouldn’t consider Leonard Fournette way late, but I don’t want Draft Analyzer recommending him to me at his current third-round ADP. I also have three rules in fantasy football: Don’t reach on a quarterback, always take the best player available, and never, ever trust Jared Cook. Finally, I know fantasy football is supposed to be super objective, but screw Tyreek Hill.
- No Ks or DSTs until the last two rounds: As always, there’s no need to take a defense or a kicker until the last two rounds of the draft, in that order.
As I mentioned in my first Perfect Draft article, I don’t try to win my league in the first round, I just try not to lose it. Like I said before, the middle of the first round is the hardest decision for me going into the season. I’ve never been a fan of the zero-RB strategy, but my cautious nature early in drafts pushes me in that direction when I’m picking in the middle. I ran this mock about a dozen times. Sometimes Hopkins was available, sometimes he wasn’t. I continuously liked my team best when I went with him – or Davante Adams in the mocks where Hopkins wasn’t available – rather than David Johnson.
Hopkins has been one of the most productive receivers in football over the course of his career. He’s had over 1,200 yards receiving in four of his last five seasons and he’s scored 24 touchdowns over his last two years combined. Last year, only Julio Jones had more yards than Hopkins, and his 11 touchdowns ranked fifth in the league. At age 27, he’s right in the middle of his prime and he has a young and talented quarterback in DeShaun Watson who is coming off his first pro bowl in only his second season. If you’re looking for safety at the top of the draft, it’s hard to argue with Hopkins, even in a standard league format.
Each round, Draft Analyzer recommends the top available suggestion along with four alternatives, as shown at the top of this section. Throughout the rest of the article, I will note those suggestions as well as my top alternative to the player that I actually selected.
My Top Alternative: Davante Adams
Draft Analyzer recommends I take a tight end here in the second round. While I don’t have a problem taking one of the two remaining elite tight ends in this spot – George Kittle and Zach Ertz – I prefer Draft Analyzer’s third-ranked option. I couldn’t completely go zero-RB when Chubb was still on the board here, and I feel confident building my team around Hopkins and Chubb as two players who should get a ton of work. I seriously considered Kittle, but I don’t love the drop-off at running back after Chubb.
Chubb didn’t take over as the primary starter last year until seven weeks into the season, but once he did, he averaged 17.6 carries, 82.3 yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game over 10 starts. That pace would put him over 1,300 yards and at nearly 10 touchdowns over the course of a 16-game season, which would make him a legitimate RB1. In PPR leagues, he takes a bit of a hit since he only averaged 2.8 targets per game during that span, but in standard leagues, there’s really no downside. I’m not buying Kareem Hunt as a threat to Chubb. Hunt will miss the first eight games of the season, and by that time, I’m expecting Chubb to be on his way to competing for the rushing title.
My Top Alternative: George Kittle
Just like I asked for in my Draft Plan, Draft Analyzer reminds me about Kenny Golladay here. In all the simulations I ran, Golladay never made it to my fourth pick, so while the middle-third round feels a little high, this is where I need to take him if I want him. Draft Analyzer recommends Amari Cooper, but I see both players with very similar value, so I pulled the trigger on one of my favorite targets this year. I also considered a running back here, but I like the value later at the position, whereas I see a big dropoff at receiver by the time I get to my fourth pick.
Like Chubb, Golladay is another player who was very productive last season but I see as having huge breakout potential this year. Golladay had 70 catches on 119 targets last year, gaining 1,063 yards and scoring five touchdowns. He’s a 6-foot-4 physical receiver, with downfield ability and the size to win contested catches. Golladay stepped into the primary receiver role after Golden Tate was traded mid-season, and his targets went from 6.00 to 10.14 per game without Tate in the lineup. While Marvin Jones should be back and healthy to start the season, Golladay is more suited to be an alpha receiver.
My Top Alternative: Amari Cooper
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