Upon further review: Best Ball Longs and Shorts

Week 1 can’t get here fast enough.

Aside from the obvious reasons of: I need freaking football, there is also the growing urgency of stopping me from drafting any more best ball teams.

I can’t recall exactly when I started, but late February seems like a fair guess. Since then I’ve been on a steady diet of drafting at Draft. I just hit the 128-team mark with another 8 on the go.

I need help.

And help I’m getting. Mostly what this too-much-fun endeavor has provided me is a better view of myself, and how I weight certain players on the scales of love and hate. It’s also reminded me that despite thinking otherwise, I’m not immune to offseason narrative-itis.

What you’ll find below is a look at what I’ve learned. Some of this will be self-deprecating, some of it will be self-aggrandizing, all of it will hopefully be enlightening. The lessons learned here are useful for the rest of this draft season, and just as importantly, next year.

The details:

The vast majority of my 128 teams are of the slow draft 12 team variety. I like the traditional 12 team league size as it is the measure we often used when discussing season long or dynasty, and so it provides good perspective in those formats.

Here’s a round by round look at a variety of players, and what I think I know about them.

CORNERSTONE ROUNDS: 1 through 3

Round one isn’t rocket surgery. Don’t be a hero, don’t screw it up.

In 128 drafts I’ve picked everywhere on the board. I’ve picked a total of 15 different players in round one. And like most, drafting in the top two spots I’ll almost always opt for Gurley or Bell, with a little David Johnson sprinkled in. Ho um, the guys below make for more interesting debates.

Heaviest ownership:

Alvin Kamara (16%)

Kamara is liquid. He is taken as early as three or as late as eight. Despite an insane finish to 2017, Karama has plenty of doubters and naysayers, but I’m buying. He is in on an exceptionally coached and quarterbacked offense, loaded with weapons. Defenses will certainly be terrified of what Kamara might inflict on him, but they have plenty of other worries then to devote all of their energy to stopping him in this balanced attack. The same cannot be said for Ezekiel Elliot, who I would never take before Bell, Gurley, Johnson or Kamara.

Dalvin Cook (12%)

Gulp. In hindsight, this one makes me nervous. I picked him earlier in the offseason as a late first round running back. I did so because I watched plenty of him last year, and numbers and injuries aside, he looked the part of a superstar back. Prior to the rise of Kamara, he appeared to be the best three-down-back in the class. Upon further review, his injury history is a concern, and spending high draft capital on someone who might miss considerable time will keep me nervous all season.

Leveon Bell (9%)

Again, this is when I catch pick 1 or 2. Not much to think about here.

Lightest ownership:

Ezekiel Elliot (2%)

I hate Dallas. I don’t trust their coaching staff, I hate their depth chart and I think every team in the league is going to gameplan for their one and only weapon. I can imagine a season where Zeke is overused and banged up, the Dallas team is exhausted and capitulates by mid-season, and the ineffective Jason Garrett is finally shown the door at season’s end. Elliot may be set for a very disappointing year.

Kareem Hunt (2%)

He exploded on the scene and then seemed to run out of steam. I would not be surprised if Andy Reid gives Hunt the Dion Lewis treatment used by the Patriot’s last year. Keeping the kid rested and dividing more carries than fantasy owners would like, with returning and very capable Spencer Ware.

Melvin Gordon (1%)

This is personal bias speaking here. I’ve never liked Gordon very much and despite last year’s success am skeptical he can maintain the momentum. I’ve never warmed to Gordon’s game and watching tape is a quick reminder of why. Yes, he can “do it all” but he manages to do so with an uninspired plodder’s flare. As a Matt Waldman fan, I am enthusiastic about Justin Jackson demanding a role and digging into Gordon’s touches.

Round 2

Heaviest ownership:

Christian McCaffrey (20%)

Here’s another player who’s starting to make me nervous. I like McCaffrey’s game but many of these shares were drafted prior to the CJ Anderson additional and certainly before the team lost RT Daryl Williams. Note too that many of these picks were made prior to the introduction of the 2018 rookie backs, so the value isn’t horrible. That said 20% is higher than anyone would like given the question marks in the Carolina backfield, paired with Newton’s goal line prowess.

Rob Gronkowski (9%)

Frankly, 9% is too low. I’m always surprised that Gronkowski hangs around as long as he does. I also own 4% of him in the first round, which is a reach but at the tail end of round one at least worth considering. The 2018 Patriots are without: Edelman four games, as well as Cooks and Lewis from last year. Yes, there have been additions to fill those voids but none so consistently dependable as Gronk. In fact ,it’s hard to imagine him not finishing as the leader in yards, scores and possibly catches on a consistently elite offense. What’s not to like.

Keenan Allen (11%)

This just feels safe. A target hog that never fails to deliver when healthy. Add to this the absence of Hunter Henry and the questions marks surrounding Mike Williams, and there’s plenty to like.

Lightest ownership:

When all the guys I typically target are gone, I’ve settled on taking some of this group.:

Mike Evans (2%)

I want Tampa to be good. They just seem to be at the tipping point where hope and hype give way to skepticism, and I’m now in the latter camp until proven wrong.

Odell Beckham Jr. (2%)

This one can easily bite me in the ass. When ODB ADP comes up, I’ve opted for Julio, Gronk or even Michael Thomas when they are there. There’s just something about him that makes me hesitate. It might be the prima-donna thing, or worries about the Giants ability to succeed, and should they succeed, just how they do it. Call it a gut feel, but I’m only taking Beckham if I absolutely have to, I’m not seeking him out and I’m prepared to regret it.

Devonta Freeman (3%)

As Indiana Jones once said, it’s not the years, It’s the mileage. Freeman is a little guy with a lot of touches, many of them unfriendly. He has the very capable Tevin Coleman backing him up and the newly acquired Ito Smith looking to cut his teeth. Aside from that backfield depth, the Falcons are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2017, with Julio looking to fend off can’t-score criticism. Steven Ridley also gives Matt Ryan another option. Atlanta’s offense will quite likely look a litte different and Freeman may be spared some volume. Injury rumours are another reason to opt out.

Round three:

The don’t screw it up, but you might have to reach round.

Heavy ownership:

Doug Baldwin (12%)

I’m buying the narrative here. Baldwin is criminally underrated, he is clearly the number one receiving target in an offense led by an MVP caliber talent in Russell Wilson. Heavy volume and favourable game scripts should give Baldwin career year numbers.

TY Hilton (10%)

I bought him early and often. With or without Andrew Luck, Hilton provides a handful of monster best ball weeks. Like Baldwin, he’s the obvious #1 on a team that is likely to need to throw a lot. The bonus, and it seems to be taking shape now, is that Andrew Luck is alive and well. Round three might look very good in a few weeks as Hilton edges to a higher ADP.

Stefon Diggs (9%)

My only regret here is that best ball does not allow for trading. Diggs has been the recipient of plenty of offseason love, recently receiving accolades and being considered the next Antonio Brown for his celebrated route running. His ADP may continue to creep into overvalued territory. My only concerns here are how he and Kirk Cousins get themselves quickly onto the same page. I’m happy to own him, but he seems to be reaching sell-high levels.

Joe Mixon (9%)

This allocation is a result of draft by need paired with RB panic. I actually don’t like Mixon and am dumbfounded by how many analysts and such fervent supporters. Perhaps it will become obvious once the season starts, but I watched him play last season and I think the hype and hyperbole is a little thick. I also remember that he plays behind an average line, with an average QB, for an average coach and should have to fend off the seemingly, just as talented Gio Bernard.

Light ownership:

While I wish I faded Mixon, the guys I actually did avoid are these three:

Jordan Howard (2%)

The early offseason narrative: Howard can’t catch and Nagy wants to throw to the backs.

The last 2-week narrative: Nagy is teaching Howard to catch, lookout.

The truth? Likely somewhere between, meaning round three is a pretty great place to grab a guy who will likely have a big role on a team with a much better offense. Even if his receiving game improvements are modest, they will be an upgrade. Add to that what you have to imagine are more red zone scores and this seems like good value.

Adam Thielen (2%)

He did well last year, in part, because Diggs was not 100%. It probably didn’t hurt that the Dalvin Cook injury changed the game plan dramatically as well. This year Cook is back and the aforementioned Diggs is about to become ANTONIO FREAKING BROWN! And granted, while I don’t believe Diggs is the second coming, I do think there are reasons to believe Thielen, adapting to a new QB and sharing a full season of targets with a completely healthy Diggs, may underperform consensus value.

Alex Collins (2%)

He was a bargain early in the offseason but gradually gained darling-value pick once the Ravens opted to forego taking a running back in the draft. This spoke just as much to their belief in Kenneth Dixon, as it did Collins’ 2017 effort. Round three might seem rich in hindsight soon though, as the oft-injured Dixon is once again limping. We shouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens bring a new back to camp and temper the Collins enthusiasm.

Next time we will look at round four and beyond…

Thanks for reading!

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