This article is part of our Best Ball Journal series.
The past few weeks were a hectic mess as I devoted most of my time to writing and editing for the annual RotoWire fantasy football preview magazine. Sacrifices along the way included sleep, haircuts, clean cat litter and social interaction, but naturally I still found time to draft a handful of best-ball teams, because apparently my priorities are out of whack. On the bright side, I now can confirm that shares of Deshaun Watson and Marquise Brown don't blot out the smell of a dirty litter box, contrary to popular belief. Scented candles work much better, but they cost money and don't score touchdowns.
A sample of five best-ball teams is pretty small, but it's at least enough for an initial step back to evaluate my evaluations. One of the great things about early drafts — in addition to the ease of finding value — is how they give me a better idea of which players I really love and which I merely like. It's one thing to talk about having high expectations for a player; it's another to actually pull the trigger when it's time to decide between him and another guy in a draft.
If you'd talked with me about fantasy football recently, you'd probably expect to see Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and Michael Gallup, among others, on at least one or two of the five teams I've drafted so far. Based on early ADP results, I thought each of the three players was significantly undervalued, yet none of them shows up on any of my five rosters. I also would've expected to have more shares of Dede Westbrook and Vance McDonald, both of whom have found their way onto just one of my teams so far. Maybe I don't love Westbrook as much as I thought I did? Or, maybe, everyone else loves him just as much? Whatever the case, it's now clear that I can't count on him scooping him up as a WR3/4 in every draft the way I was planning.
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Below we see a list of all the players I've drafted to at least two of my five teams. I've had the good fortune of a top-four pick in all but one of those drafts, allowing me to procure three shares of Alvin Kamara and one of Ezekiel Elliott. In case you're wondering, I have Elliott ranked No. 1 overall, followed by Saquon Barkley at No. 2, Kamara at No. 3 and Christian McCaffrey at No. 4. But, really, I don't have a particularly strong preference between the four running backs, and merely am happy to land one of them to start things off. Anyway, here are my player shares:
|San Francisco 49ers||2||40.00%|
Jaylen Samuels - For what it's worth, I missed out on Samuels in my one draft that's still in progress, so it is possible there's a limit to the obsession. Regardless, heavy ownership is exactly what i expected given his ADP (107th overall, RB42) on BB10s since the beginning of May. I'm assuming Samuels will replace James Conner on passing downs — something Conner himself hinted at Wednesday. Given that Samuels had 19 touchdown receptions in college and caught 26 of 29 targets last year, there's no good reason to keep Conner on the field when the defense knows you're throwing anyway. The passing-down role alone is worth a pick in the 9th/10th round, and then there's the possibility of a much larger workload if Conner falters or misses time with an injury.
Elsewhere in the Pittsburgh backfield, Benny Snell is my absolute least-favorite type of prospect — a big, slow running back with poor athletic testing numbers and minimal receiving experience. I'll never understand why teams draft these players on the basis of the size of their college workload. It's not like Snell was hyper-efficient (career 5.3 YPC) or versatile (29 catches for 216 yards in 39 games) for Kentucky. Durability is his best trait...and I don't say that as a compliment.
Marquise Brown - This is one where I need to question myself and whether my Ravens fandom is impacting draft decisions. It's not much of a commitment based on ADP (178th overall, WR69), but there are other interesting players in the same range — namely Andy Isabella, Deebo Samuel, Antonio Callaway and DeVante Parker — who I'm mostly ignoring in the process of loading up on Hollywood. Come to think of it, I didn't even love Brown as a prospect until he was drafted by my favorite team. Given the foot injury, his lack of size and the lack of overall passing volume in Baltimore, a reasonable projection for rookie-year workload is 60-80 targets. That's not bad for a WR6, but it feels a bit low compared to the other receivers I just mentioned. Then again, Brown does fall under the deep-threat archetype, warranting a modest bump up for best ball compared to traditional drafts.
Philadelphia Eagles D/ST - Yes, please. All day, every day. There's no logical reason for 12 defenses to be drafted earlier, apart from people solely relying on 2018 scoring. The Eagles led the league in QB hits (133) and tied for eighth in sacks (44) last season, but they came away with just 17 takeaways and didn't return any of those for a touchdown. It was a fluke for them to finish so low in fantasy scoring, and they now have Malik Jackson joining Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan up the middle to abuse centers and guards. I have the Eagles ranked third among fantasy D/ST units, behind only the Bears and Chargers. The ADP is 213th overall and 13th among team defenses.
Deshaun Watson - This one kind of feels like coincidence, or perhaps an unintended result of picking either third or fourth in three drafts already. I do think Watson and Baker Mayfield are the best bets to topple Patrick Mahomes as QB1 overall, but doesn't everyone else think the same thing? The Watson pick is what happens when I get to that weird part of the draft with sketchy RBs and about eight WR3/4s that I like equally — Westbrook, Curtis Samuel, Christian Kirk, Keke Coutee, Anthony Miller and so on. Difficult decisions are difficult, so instead of making one, I just draft Watson or Mayfield. I'm not mad about it, but let's at least chalk it up as a possible area for improvement. There's plenty of QB value later on, including Mayfield about one round after Watson typically is selected.
Rashaad Penny - The market seems to be catching up after Penny arrived for OTAs in excellent shape while Chris Carson was sidelined by his recovery from a minor knee surgery. Penny was 76th in May ADP but now is up to 71st for June. I still love the value, as Penny's speed and elusiveness should prove more valuable to the Seahawks than Carson's power. The former also offers more potential as a pass catcher, while the latter will have a hard time staying healthy if his usefulness continues to solely be based on violently smashing through opponents.
Tyrell Williams - I've always liked Williams as a player and now see a pretty clear path to 90-120 targets. Yes, those targets are coming from Derek Carr, who is kind of stinky, but they should still be worth about eight yards apiece. At ADP 130 and WR53, I'll happily draft Williams over the likes of Devin Funchess, Geronimo Allison, Emmanuel Sanders and Robert Foster. I think my infatuation with Williams helps explain the lack of Gallup shares, as there's often a choice to make between the two wideouts. Maybe I'll start drafting Williams a round earlier so that I can also pick up Gallup.
Andy Dalton - Dalton is sometimes still available in the 200s, currently drafted at QB26. My expectations aren't super high, but he's a better choice than Marcus Mariota or Nick Foles when I need a third quarterback. Still, there's no way Dalton ends up on 60 percent of my best-ball teams when all is said and done this summer.
Alvin Kamara - I've picked fourth twice and third once, selecting Kamara each time. I guess I'm thinking Latavius Murray will see a bit less work than Mark Ingram, but who's to say if that's actually true. It's really a coin flip between Kamara and McCaffrey here, with the former having the edge in TD projection while the latter is a safer bet for huge volume. I really love each of the top-four RBs this year, and am thrilled to get any of them on my team (did I say that already?).
Josh Gordon - Perhaps I'm too sentimental, but Gordon seems like a genuinely decent guy who really struggles with anxiety and trying to stay sober. Is it delusional to think the NFL might give him credit for that and allow him to return for Week 1 if he makes it through the offseason without a relapse? Maybe, but it's worth a shot for my seventh WR spot in the 18th/19th round (ADP 234, WR87).