In an ideal world, my starting fantasy lineup this season would feature Peyton Manning, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green and Jimmy Graham. That would be the same world in which I can’t stop winning the lottery, Kate Hudson stalks me, and I lose weight every time I carbo-load.
Alas, since our competitors keep refusing to cede the entire first round to us, we’ll have to work smarter to assemble the most dominant team in our league. Our challenge, therefore, is to secure the best value in each round, methodically building a roster that will soar from Week 1, withstand an injury to one or two key players and peak during the fantasy playoffs.
With that lofty goal in mind, I’ve analyzed the average draft position (ADP) of each player from multiple fantasy sites to determine the best pick in each round – resulting in my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft.
As always, we start with a few key assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, and one tight end, kicker and team defense. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a snake format, meaning we won’t have a shot at Shady or Charles. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. Finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.
Now, with the fifth pick of the 2014 Perfect Draft, we select…
Round 1. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. A Top 5 fantasy back each of the last three seasons, Beast Mode is still a formidable force on a strong, run-centric team. Eddie Lacy is another good choice here, but he has to compete too much with his receivers.
Round 2. Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals. Waiting until later for your second RB could be costly. Bernard is a three-down workhorse poised for a breakout campaign. Rookie Jeremy Hill will get some touches too, but Bernard should still post elite numbers in Cincinnati’s high-octane offense.
Round 3. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears. Hate passing on Brandon Marshall a round earlier? I don’t just expect Jeffery to be a nice consolation prize; I think he’ll out-perform his older counterpart this season.
Round 4. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers. Philip Rivers rebounded with a bang in 2013 thanks in large part to his talented young wideout. Look for the duo to flourish even more as Allen approaches the ranks of the elites. If Randall Cobb or Vincent Jackson slides here, though, I’m snagging them.
Round 5. Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers. Freed from his blocking responsibilities, there’s no reason Davis can’t continue to post Top 5 TE figures.
Round 6. Nick Foles, QB, Eagles. Our patience in drafting a passer pays off with the leader of Chip Kelly’s prolific offense. Foles showed last season how accurate and explosive he can be, and with a full offseason of preparation as the starter, he’s poised for another exceptional year.
Round 7. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos. The talented speedster steps into the fertile role vacated by Eric Decker, and there’s no reason to think Manning can’t turn him into the next fantasy stud. Given Wes Welker’s concussion worries, Sanders’ potential cannot be overstated.
Round 8. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Raiders. We need to shore up our backfield, and MJD offers plenty of upside despite the presence of injury-prone Darren McFadden. Jones-Drew is already listed as the starter and should be leaned on heavily given the team’s struggles at quarterback.
Round 9. Jay Cutler, QB, Bears. If you think Marshall and Jeffery are going to come up huge this year, as I do, then you have to think Cutler will too. For the first time ever, I’m a Cutler booster.
Round 10. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills. He’s getting old and he’s in a crowded backfield, but Jackson just keeps defying expectations. Bench depth doesn’t get much saltier.
Round 11. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers. Let’s grab the fantasy Rookie of Year here and let him work his way into our starting lineup by midseason. I love this guy’s upside.
Round 12. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints. Plenty of us have been burned in the past by Ingram’s preseason hype, so I won’t be shocked if he disappoints again. But the former first-round pick has a new title (starter) and Darren Sproles is now an Eagle. The upside is there, so he’s worth the gamble with your 12th pick.
Round 13. Josh Gordon, WR, Browns. If he “only” gets an eight-game suspension, you’ll be happy to stow him away for your postseason run.
Round 14. Bengals defense/special teams. This unit is stacked and poised to make a giant leap in fantasy production. Much like the 2013 Chiefs.
Round 15. Jarrett Boykin, WR, Packers. You want to own a piece of Green Bay’s offense, and Boykin offers great value (and upside) as the third wideout.
Round 16. Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers. Another sleeper, Wheaton is secure as a starter opposite the prolific Antonio Brown. Again, it’s all about the upside.
Round 17. Robbie Gould, K, Bears. I’ll take “Underrated Kickers” for $100 please, Alex. The mop-up guy in Chicago should get plenty of work this season.
There you have it: A team with firepower at every position, bench depth with substantial upside and no bye-week dilemmas. We have until Week 8 to find a backup tight end.
Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.
Ladd Biro was named Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for two consecutive years (2010, 2011) and was a finalist again in 2013. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).