We're starting to see more best-ball league options pop up with both Fanball and Draft offering leagues, and there are probably others out there I don't know about. These are one of my favorite types of leagues, as they are like mock drafting but you place a little skin into the game with cash monies. I wrote a little primer back in 2016, available here. The gist is, you draft a team and then don't do jack squat until you look to see if you won any money at the end of the year. The biggest change to strategy from your regular weekly leagues is that inconsistent players with low floors and high ceilings are valuable because on weeks in which they would usually sink your team, other players can make up for that lack of production because you don't have starting lineups; the game just takes the highest scoring players for that week.
I haven't done enough Best-Ball drafts this season to have a strong strategy for attacking them, so I went into this fairly open and with the second pick, I knew I'd be getting a running back to start.
Starting lineups are:
2 Running Backs
3 Wide Receivers
1 Tight End
1 Flex (RB, WR, TE)
1 Team Defense / Special Teams
And since there are 20 rounds, you can make up for weak positions by adding players that could break out enough to shore up that weakness. To start this draft, Le'Veon Bell went first overall. I have no qualms with that, but like Todd Gurley's touchdown ability more than Bell's.
There weren't any crazy picks in the first round. The order wasn't how I would have gone, as I'm not sold on Alvin Kamara living up to his touchdown and yards-per-touch numbers from last season, but he is still a first-rounder for me with Mark Ingram sidelined for the first month.
Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette went at the turn. I'm still not sold on Fournette as a great PPR back, but with that Jacksonville defense, he's going to get all the work he wants, provided he can stay healthy. I'm higher on Cook because I like his overall ability a bit more, and with Jerick McKinnon gone, Cook will see a lot of targets this year.
The second round is packed with players I wanted before my pick came up, but I still felt good about T.Y. Hilton because he is going to see the lion's share of targets on an overall weak receiving corps and should get Andrew Luck back. I guess we can't bank on Luck, but without Luck, what do we really have?
Jordan Howard is an awful PPR running back. The end of the second/beginning of the third is about where he's being drafted but I also think that's around his upside in PPR leagues. I'll wait on him.
My next pick went for Joe Mixon. It was between him and Jerrick McKinnon and usually in PPR I figured I'd go for the receiving back there but Mixon does have better upside as the every-down back in Cincinnati. Both players are question marks since they haven't been the starter for their team yet, so my guess is to go with the player slotted for more overall touches.
Overall, the third round went as expected. The choice between Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce is tougher than it's ever been, and I'd probably lean toward Kelce at this point. Patrick Mahomes is a wild card still, but Kelce will get his targets and Mahomes is capable while Gronkowski's body is wearing down.
Round 4 or 5 is when I go after Sony Michel. I feel he is undervalued so far and want to get as many shares as I can. On a team that excels at moving the ball but is also getting older fast, the first-round rookie is primed to do some damage. You can check out why I like him.
The fourth round is when riskier picks become more prevalent, as players like Derrick Henry are hard to pass on if you believe he becomes the lead back on an offense that should be improved. I, however, will avoid Henry like the plague because I think Dion Lewis will outscore him in fantasy this season.
Round 5 felt a bit like no man's land for me, so I decided to take another rookie running back in Ronald Jones. I like Marvin Jones a lot but I think Kenny Golladay may take some work away from him, while Jarvis Landry has stronger receivers to compete with in Cleveland, so I took the risk that Jones would be the full-time starter on what should be an improved Buccaneers' team.
Sammy Watkins is a player I had queued up, but it's tough to put that much faith into him. He went 61st overall, and that's about where his ADP is right now. He seems like a perfect fit for Kansas City and Mahomes' big arm, and Watkins truly is a good receiver who has had scheme and health troubles, so I can see taking the risk, but I'd rather wait just a little bit longer.
My sixth-round pick went for Chris Hogan. It looks like I'll be Hogan's champion this preseason, as his ADP falls a round or two later. With Brandin Cooks gone and Julian Edelman coming off another injury, I see Hogan as the top fantasy wide receiver on the Patriots. Gronkowski, of course, is the top receiver, but again, I don't love his chances of playing 16 games.
Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson went in the sixth round, which is about right for these best-ball leagues. With only one quarterback needed each week and many draft slots to fill, it is fairly easy to grab two or three starting quarterbacks to work with as your No. 1 quarterback.
With just two receivers and four running backs, I decided to make a concerted effort to take receivers starting with Hogan in the sixth. I backed his pick up with Randall Cobb, another player I see as undervalued this season. Cobb has very little competition for targets outside of Davante Adams this year. Jimmy Graham might be a red-zone target worth the touchdowns he'll get, but he's not going to be a big chain mover at this point. Cobb has had some setbacks with injuries to himself and Rodgers, but while the Packers could have saved a nice chunk of money by letting Cobb go, they instead let Jordy Nelson walk.
Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams went 83rd and 91st respectively, which is flipped according to their ADPs but also in the ballpark of where they've been getting drafted. It's an odd situation that could call for drafting both players in a best-ball draft like this. I expect Williams to get the first crack at the job despite Jones likely being the better pure runner. The good news is that they cancel each other out enough to drop their ADPs into a range that you can take a risk on either or both.
My Round 8 pick went for Kelvin Benjamin. This pick is predicated on the idea that the Bills are awful, which they are, and will be losing a lot and that Benjamin is by far their best receiver and the guy who will get the majority of the targets, especially if they ever sniff the red zone.
My Round 9 pick has a similar basis for being picked by yours truly. Allen Hurns is the best receiver on the Cowboys. Yes, Michael Gallup should be useful but Terrance Williams is not useful and they have no tight end. Ezekiel Elliott is going to at least keep this team from being stuck in the mud, so Hurns should see plenty of targets and scoring opportunities.
I thought about Robby Anderson in this round, but I'm just not sure what is going to happen to the Jets' passing game. There is potential there and if I knew Josh McCown would be the starter for 16 games I'd feel better about Anderson, but with three quarterbacks and the return of Quincy Enunwa, plus Anderson possibly missing a couple games for off-field nonsense, I'm warier than I was coming out of last season.
Quarterbacks started flying off the board in Rounds 10 and 11, and I probably should have grabbed one, but I also needed a tight end and felt I could get by with three starters at quarterback no matter who they were. I took David Njoku here and feel pretty good about his ability and opportunity this season. He is taking over the full-time tight end duties on a team that should be much, much better offensively this year.
I was about to take Andrew Luck when he was sniped before my Round 11 pick, so I grabbed Mahomes and his tremendous upside. He makes for a great best-ball pick, as he'll likely be inconsistent but with some big fantasy games.
Many backup/third-down backs went during this stretch, like Ty Montgomery, Corey Clement, Giovani Bernard, Devontae Booker, Matt Breida, James White and Bilal Powell. These are usually good PPR backs for best-ball leagues, and I could see going stronger on wide receivers early in these drafts and stocking up on pass-catching backs in these rounds.
I decided to go with another quarterback in Round 12 when I took Andy Dalton. Dalton isn't very good, but if Tyler Eifert can ever stay healthy, Dalton has shown he can put up good numbers with a strong receiving group. But I probably would have been just as happy with Alex Smith or Mitch Trubisky.
If I had two top quarterbacks, I probably would have stuck with them, but I felt like I needed another warm body and picked Case Keenum. Keenum gets a pretty nice set up with two strong receivers and a good defense. I doubt he sets the world on fire but he should be a solid contributor with a few upside games.
My next pick would have been Nyheim Hines, but he was gone. I think Round 13 is a good spot to get him in PPR drafts, yet I did probably need a tight end all things considered, so I grabbed Mr. Ben Watson. If he can stay upright, he should be useful enough. The Saints have changed their offense since Watson played for them but I expect we'll see a bit more passing this season, and Watson and Brees had a decent connection when they were together.
I had Vance McDonald queued up and really thought he'd get to me, but no luck. I'm really high on him this year as long as he can somehow stay on the field.
I was excited to get Danny Amendola in Round 15, as he could easily see the most targets for the Dolphins this year. Yes, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker deserve work, but Amendola is a veteran who can keep drives moving.
I did end up taking the other Colts rookie running back in Round 16, Jordan Wilkins. I don't love him, but he's the one back on the team who is a thumper between the tackles. He should at the very least get a shot to win some of those snaps.
I finished out my team with my third tight end. There is a tight end flex spot, so three isn't crazy, but I could have used another wide receiver more and there were some I probably should have taken over ol' Jake Butt, but how can you pass on a tight end named Butt? It's kind of against the law. Butt's value depends on if he can win the job or not, so that is still completely up in the air, but I like his ability more than his competitors.
After that, I rounded off the team with three defenses. Since the top defenses were gone, I had to go with quantity over quality, as you can see.
This team doesn't jump up and slap you in the face with its greatness but I like it for a best-ball draft. I reached for some players like Hilton, Hogan, Michel, Hurns and Cobb, but I have faith in each guy's opportunity and ability. I don't enjoy leaving a draft where I end up staying close to the consensus ADP, and I didn't do that here. Always leave a draft with a group of "your guys" because otherwise it's just not as fun!
Packers, Green Bay