Your best bet at making money from best-ball leagues isn’t to just play a few times and hope to nail those drafts. We’ll all get some things wrong, and -- of course -- there will always be injuries.
Your best bet is volume. Draft more teams, and you increase your odds of profiting on your investment. (Those odds depend some on where you play and which format you select.)
Below, I’ve recapped my 1st PlayDraft run, which started back in the midst of the NFL playoffs. You’ll see some players whose situations have already changed, rendering their positions in this particular draft already obsolete. Plenty more will see their ADPs adjust tremendously from where they went here. That’s both the challenge and part of the allure to drafting so early.
Uncertain situations can lower the draft positions of impending free agents and incoming rookies (before the NFL Draft). That presents opportunity to mine early value on players you expect to become summer draft favorites or in-season breakouts.
This particular league was a $5-entry, 12-team slow draft on PlayDraft. Scoring is half-PPR, and drafting goes 18 rounds to fit the following lineup settings:
And here’s how my draft went …
1.01 Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
1.02 Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
1.03 Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
1.04 Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
1.05 Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
1.06 Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
1.07 Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
1.08 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
1.09 Davante Adams, WR, Packers
1.10 Nick Chubb, RB, Browns
1.11 Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
1.12 Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
This draft started before the Super Bowl. Gurley will probably still go 1st here and there, but he has now fallen behind Barkley and Elliott in ADP. Gurley remains closer to Elliott (2.80 vs. 2.70) in average position, though, than #4 pick Christian McCaffrey (4.00).
Gordon lost 4 games to injury but otherwise ranked 5th among RBs in PPR points per game -- 3rd in half-PPR.
2.01 Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
2.02 Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
2.03 Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
2.04 James Conner, RB, Steelers
2.05 JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
2.06 David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
2.07 Le’Veon Bell, RB, ???
2.08 Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
2.09 Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
2.10 Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
2.11 Odell Beckham, WR, Giants
2.12 Damien Williams, RB, Chiefs
Bell proved to us last season that we can’t count on him returning to the field. At this point in the year, though, I’d bet he doesn’t sit out again. Once we know that Bell is playing for someone in 2019, he’s probably a 1st-round pick.
Damien Williams might just be the best argument for jumping into some best-ball drafts right now. A year ago, the Chiefs plucked him off the marked for just a $1.2 million, 1-year deal. Sure, they have since extended him. But $5.1 million for the next 2 years doesn’t exactly lock the soon-to-be 27-year-old into a feature role. For comparison’s sake, here are 4 other similar-aged RBs, beyond their rookie contracts, and their 2019 base salaries:
James White: $2.5 million
Chris Thompson: $2.75 million
Theo Riddick: $3.2 million
Giovani Bernard: $3.4 million
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have only Williams, Darrel Williams, J.D. Moore and John Crockett under contract for the 2019 backfield. They’ll be adding someone else. Quite possibly a couple of someone elses. He’s currently 14th among RBs in PlayDraft ADP, going at the 2-3 turn.
To this point, Williams has topped 13 carries once as a Chief. He has topped 51 rushing yards twice. He also caught 4+ balls in 4 of the final 6 games (playoffs included) and racked up 10 TDs over those 6 contests.
If Williams hits 2019 as the lead back in K.C., then he certainly has a shot to deliver on high-RB2 draft position. I think it’s way early, however, to bet on such a turn for a guy who has spent 5 seasons as a committee back.
3.01 Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
3.02 Marlon Mack, RB, Colts
3.03 George Kittle, TE, 49ers
3.04 Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
3.05 T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
3.06 Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars
3.07 Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
3.08 Phillip Lindsay, RB, Broncos
3.09 Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions
3.10 Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings
3.11 Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys
3.12 Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
Fournette was a 1st-rounder just last August. Sure, the 2018 season couldn’t have gone much worse for him without some sort of devastating injury. But he delivered top-14 points per game over his 8 weeks on the field -- top-9 if you take out the 2 contests he left early in the season’s 1st half. He’s a value right now -- and perhaps a strong one.
The other RBs in this round are interesting. Mack, Lindsay, Johnson and Jones should all lead their 2019 backfields and come with high touch ceilings. All 4 of them also bear questions, though. Mack looks riskiest given a mere 1.4 receptions per game last season. Jones averaged 2.2, Lindsay 2.3 and Johnson 3.2 -- and each saw his receiving opportunities grow as the season progressed.
Otherwise, this looks like a good place a grab a WR or a TE.
4.01 Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks
4.02 Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears
4.03 Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
4.04 A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
4.05 Sony Michel, RB, Patriots
4.06 Robert Woods, WR, Rams
4.07 Brandin Cooks, WR, Rams
4.08 Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons
4.09 Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions
4.10 Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
4.11 Derrius Guice, RB, Washington
4.12 Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams
If I hadn’t started with 3 RBs, I’d have taken Freeman here. The lower-body issues that derailed him the past 2 years are worrisome. But last year did present the knee issues of 2017. If he’s over both sets of ailments, Freeman should be looking at leading an Atlanta backfield no longer sporting Tevin Coleman. Before 2018, Freeman delivered top-13 RB production for 3 straight campaigns. He’ll only be 27 when the 2019 season begins.
He and Michel look good in this round. Guice could be a value if he moves through summer without setbacks.
5.01 Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns
5.02 Jerick McKinnon, RB, 49ers
5.03 Allen Robinson, WR, Bears
5.04 James White, RB, Patriots
5.05 Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
5.06 Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
5.07 O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers
5.08 Mark Ingram, RB, ???
5.09 Jordan Howard, RB, Bears
5.10 Corey Davis, WR, Titans
5.11 Eric Ebron, TE, Colts
5.12 Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
Henry and Howard stand the best chance of cracking the top 3 at TE this season. I think Henry would have last year without the spring ACL tear.
This is a fine time to take a shot on McKinnon, 2 rounds later than his ADP sat before he went down last summer. Ingram, on the other hand, doesn’t belong here before he signs. He’ll still be short of 30, at least, until December.
Ebron and Lockett look overvalued in this range. Ebron came on strong in his 1st Colts season, but he also fared much differently when Jack Doyle was on the field. Ebron caught 18 balls in the 6 games he shared with Doyle; 48 in the other 10. That’s 3.0 receptions per game vs. 4.8. To be fair, Ebron did also score 7 TDs in those 6 Doyle contests. But counting on such a torrid TD pace isn’t a good bet -- especially if the volume recedes. We’ll see how Doyle’s offseason goes. If he’s slow to recover, it looks like Indy could consider dumping him at no cap penalty.
Getting 3 RBs by the end of Round 5 looks like a good primary approach for now. The next few rounds will find a bunch of RBs with uncertain contract statuses or playing in backfields short on clarity.
6.01 Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles
6.02 Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers
6.03 Mike Williams, WR, Chargers
6.04 Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
6.05 Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
6.06 Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans
6.07 D.J. Moore, WR, Panthers
6.08 Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons
6.09 Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos
6.10 Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals
6.11 Tevin Coleman, RB, ???
6.12 Will Fuller, WR, Texans
First of all, Sanders has no business being anywhere close to Round 6 -- at least not this early in the offseason. He just tore his left Achilles’ tendon in December. Fuller’s ACL tear adds similar risk to such an early draft spot.
Jeffery, Baldwin and Moore stand out to me in this round as likely #1 WRs for their teams. It’s worth remembering that Jeffery had his 2018 delayed by recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, and Baldwin dealt with a pair of knee injuries. Jeffery stayed healthy once on the field, and Baldwin had previously gone 5 straight seasons without missing a game. He’ll turn 31 in September but looks like a nice bet as your WR2 or WR3 right now.
Moore appeared to be breaking out in the 2nd half, before Cam Newton went down. We’ll see how the QB progresses this offseason, but I’m willing to bet on Moore in this range right now. It seems like we should expect Newton to be ready.
My initial reaction to seeing Rodgers go this early -- and that’s where his ADP sits right now -- is that drafters are being stubborn. He finished last year QB12 in points per game and ranked QB5 the year before that. To be fair, though, Rodgers did lead all fantasy QBs in 2016. If I’m drafting a QB here, it’s Watson pretty easily ahead of Rodgers. But I’m nearly always just waiting for a later round.
7.01 Lamar Miller, RB, Texans
7.02 Robby Anderson, RB, Jets
7.03 Kareem Hunt, RB, ???
7.04 Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins
7.05 Keke Coutee, WR, Texans
7.06 Marvin Jones, WR, Lions
7.07 Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
7.08 Evan Engram, TE, Giants
7.09 Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals
7.10 David Njoku, TE, Browns
7.11 Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos
7.12 Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Hunt’s ADP actually sits late Round 5 on PlayDraft as I write this. I’d guess he’ll fall at least a bit after signing with the Browns this week. I’d rather not draft him at least until we know what league discipline is coming. I also expect Nick Chubb to remain the lead back.
Drake looks like a potential value at this point, with the hope that Brian Flores’ staff realizes he’s the backfield’s best current bet -- and a better player than Drake’s 2018 touch counts indicated. Football Outsiders rated him 22nd in rushing DYAR and 16th in rushing DVOA among 47 qualifying RBs last year; 8th and 12th, respectively, in those categories among receiving backs. He looks like a prime RB3/4 or an anchor for a zero-RB lineup.
At WR, Kirk has settled into late Round 9 in ADP. This draft took place before Larry Fitzgerald re-signed. Fitzgerald’s ADP sits mid-Round 8 as of this writing.
8.01 Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
8.02 Rashaad Penny, RB, Seahawks
8.03 Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns
8.04 Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
8.05 Jared Cook, TE, Raiders
8.06 LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills
8.07 Elijah McGuire, RB, Jets
8.08 Jared Goff, QB, Rams
8.09 Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
8.10 Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs
8.11 Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
8.12 Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
This is a decent spot to start looking QB, as they’ll start going faster over the next few rounds. I don’t have a problem with any of these passers going in this range, but I’d probably boost Wilson at least up ahead of Newton. He drags volume questions with him but has proved abnormally efficient at throwing TD passes throughout his career. It’s also worth noting that Wilson’s top wideout was never really healthy in 2018.
McGuire resides in a backfield sure to see changes this offseason. Besides the expectation that the Jets will dump Isaiah Crowell, there’s a whole new coaching staff. Still, McGuire returned from injury to finish 2018 as the Jets’ best RB. I’m comfy taking a shot on that at this point in a draft.
9.01 Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants
9.02 Golden Tate, WR, ???
9.03 James Washington, WR, Steelers
9.04 Dante Pettis, WR, 49ers
9.05 Matt Breida, RB, 49ers
9.06 Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers
9.07 Nyheim Hines, RB, Colts
9.08 Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
9.09 Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons
9.10 Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys
9.11 Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
9.12 Delanie Walker, TE, Titans
We were all set to rank Winston top-8 among fantasy QBs heading into last season, before the suspension. He was the 12th QB in this draft. He has since climbed to QB10 in PlayDraft ADP. He’ll remain a prime target for me in this range.
10.01 Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
10.02 Trey Burton, TE, Bears
10.03 Royce Freeman, RB, Broncos
10.04 Duke Johnson, RB, Browns
10.05 Jack Doyle, TE, Colts
10.06 Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears
10.07 Jay Ajayi, RB, ???
10.08 Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings
10.09 Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
10.10 Josh Allen, QB, Bills
10.11 Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
10.12 Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings
Had I realized that Jay Ajayi would last until Round 10, I might have skipped on an earlier RB.
Here’s what’s working against Ajayi: We don’t know for whom he’ll play, and he’s coming off an ACL tear. But the tear affected the other knee (left) from the one that pushed him to Round 5 back in the 2015 draft. Also, the guy will be just 26 when the season starts. Ajayi logged 287 total touches in his lone full season as Miami’s starter and could see a receiving boost outside of Philly in 2019.
11.01 Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
11.02 Vance McDonald, TE, Steelers
11.03 Robert Foster, WR, Bills
11.04 Zay Jones, WR, Bills
11.05 Gus Edwards, RB, Ravens
11.06 Chris Herndon, TE, Jets
11.07 Jaylen Samuels, RB, Steelers
11.08 Dion Lewis, RB, Titans
11.09 Sam Darnold, QB, Jets
11.10 Anthony Miller, WR, Bears
11.11 Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
11.12 Dede Westbrook, WR, Jaguars
Wentz went an absurd 21st among QBs in this draft. But he sits a still-silly 17th among QBs in ADP. Rounds 9-11 in this draft make a strong case for waiting and then grabbing 2 in that range.
By current ADP, that range includes (in order):
Beyond Round 11, you can still find Sam Darnold, Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota available.
12.01 Adam Humphries, WR, ???
12.02 D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans
12.03 Antonio Callaway, WR, Browns
12.04 Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers
12.05 Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
12.06 Curtis Samuel, WR, Panthers
12.07 Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers
12.08 Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers
12.09 Tre’Quan Smith, WR, Saints
12.10 Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
12.11 Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins
12.12 Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles
As I’ve mentioned, Fitzgerald is now long gone by this point. But attractive receivers remain. I like the upside to Callaway, Samuel and Smith in this range. It’s tough to get excited about Stills right now, but he’s probably more attractive than he seems. Over the past 3 seasons, only 8 players have caught more TD passes than Stills’ 21.
Goodwin, meanwhile, has spent his brief time with Jimmy Garoppolo as the QB’s top receiver. Perhaps that becomes Dante Pettis in 2019. Perhaps it doesn’t. Either way, he’s an easy pick in this range.
13.01 Chris Thompson, RB, Washington
13.02 Ito Smith, RB, Falcons
13.03 Ronald Jones, RB, Buccaneers
13.04 Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers
13.05 Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons
13.06 Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
13.07 Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles
13.08 DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers
13.09 Jalen Richard, RB, Raiders
13.10 Nick Foles, QB, Eagles?
13.11 Kenneth Dixon, RB, Ravens
13.12 C.J. Anderson, RB, ???
This round presents some interesting RB options. Thompson should continue to have a role when/if healthy even if Derrius Guice proves ready to lead the backfield. Guice has been touted as a better pass-catcher than he had the chance to show in college, but he only caught 32 balls across 3 seasons at LSU. And we know Thompson can at least be a flashy complement when his body cooperates.
Both Bucs RBs carry intrigue at this stage as well. The new Bucs staff could opt to bring in a new top back via free agency or the draft. Or Jones could start putting it together in his 2nd season. Or Bruce Arians & Co. could add a mere complementary piece or 2 and let Barber and Jones fight for their depth-chart spots again. It’s too early for me to favor any of those paths heavily. It’s not too early to take a Round-13 gamble on either incumbent, though.
In Baltimore, I still believe a healthy Dixon could be that team’s best back -- and at least a worthy committee leader. Richard, meanwhile, has drawn Charlie Garner comparisons from HC Jon Gruden, who coached the versatile RB in both Philly and Oakland. We’ll see if restricted free agency changes anything for Richard.
14.01 Taylor Gabriel, WR, Bears
14.02 Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens
14.03 Blake Jarwin, TE, Cowboys
14.04 Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans
14.05 Tyrell Williams, WR, ???
14.06 Jordan Reed, TE, Washington
14.07 John Brown, WR, ???
14.08 Josh Rosen, QB, Cardinals
14.09 Dontrelle Inman, WR, ???
14.10 T.J. Yeldon, RB, ???
14.11 Ian Thomas, TE, Panthers
14.12 Geronimo Allison, WR, Packers
Brown hits unrestricted free agency again. He’ll be 29 when the season begins. And he finished last year among the top 45 WRs across fantasy formats. Before Joe Flacco went down, Brown actually sat top-22 across formats.
Williams and Allison also have potential to well outscore this draft position. We’ll see where Williams lands in free agency and how Green Bay’s WR depth chart shakes out.
15.01 DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Broncos
15.02 Jamison Crowder, WR, ???
15.03 Gerald Everett, TE, Rams
15.04 Tyler Eifert, TE, ???
15.05 Spencer Ware, RB, ???
15.06 Jordy Nelson, WR, Raiders
15.07 Quincy Enunwa, WR, Jets
15.08 Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals
15.09 Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars
15.10 Mike Gesicki, TE, Dolphins
15.11 Kalen Ballage, RB, Dolphins
15.12 Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Packers
We’ll see about Nelson, but the fact that Oakland already paid him a roster bonus ahead of the coming season points to him sticking around. If he does, he looks like a steal to me this late. And Nelson’s ADP sits another 2 rounds later than where I picked him.
16.01 Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers
16.02 Chris Warren, RB, Raiders
16.03 Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings?
16.04 Demaryius Thomas, WR, ???
16.05 Eli Manning, QB, Giants
16.06 Josh Adams, RB, Eagles
16.07 Devin Funchess, WR, ???
16.08 Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots
16.09 Josh Reynolds, WR, Rams
16.10 Adrian Peterson, RB, ???
16.11 Albert Wilson, WR, Dolphins
16.12 Isaiah Crowell, RB, Jets?
As expected, the Texans have jettisoned the final year of Thomas’ contract since this draft. We’ll see how the rest of his offseason goes. He’s merely an end-of-draft flier at this point, though.
Elsewhere in this round, Murray voided the final year on his Vikings contract, the Jets are expected to cut Crowell, and Funchess and Peterson face free agency.
Funchess’ ADP looks like bad recency bias. I’ve never been a huge fan, but the guy’s going at the end of Round 18 on average. In these 18-round drafts, that means he’s not always getting drafted. Funchess will be just 25 when the season begins, totaled 190 targets over the past 2 years and should land solidly on the open market.
17.01 Doug Martin, RB, ???
17.02 Paul Richardson, WR, Washington
17.03 John Ross, WR, Bengals
17.04 Chase Edmonds, RB, Cardinals
17.05 Ted Ginn, WR, Saints
17.06 Hayden Hurst, TE, Ravens
17.07 Rashard Higgins, WR, Browns
17.08 Cole Beasley, WR, ???
17.09 Willie Snead, WR, Ravens
17.10 Joe Flacco, QB, ???
17.11 Teddy Bridgewater, QB, ???
17.12 Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers
I’m taking 3 TEs nearly every time -- especially if I don’t start with Kelce or Ertz. Hurst joined Baltimore as a 1st-round pick just last year and seems like a nice bet this late in a draft. I’m leaving the question marks on Flacco here to point out that this draft happened before his trade to Denver. We’ll see where his ADP goes now. I’d guess somewhere in Round 14.
18.01 Carlos Hyde, RB, ???
18.02 Deon Cain, WR, Colts
18.03 Zach Zenner, RB, ???
18.04 Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, ???
18.05 Keelan Cole, WR, Jaguars
18.06 Jordan Wilkins, RB, Colts
18.07 Case Keenum, QB, Broncos?
18.08 Tyler Higbee, TE, Rams
18.09 Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Cardinals
18.10 Rod Smith, RB, ???
18.11 Demetrius Harris, TE, ???
18.12 Justin Jackson, RB, Chargers
Hyde has 2 more years on his current contract, but neither carries any guaranteed money. It would be shocking if the Jaguars keep him around for a $4.7 million 2019 cap hit.
Keenum? Well, I took a shot on a 3rd QB over a 6th RB or 8th WR after backing up Jameis Winston with Derek Carr. Fingers crossed that he gets a shot elsewhere. (Jacksonville?)
I wouldn’t bother with Zenner, ASJ, Cole, Smith, Harris or Jackson in 18-round drafts right now.