March spoiled us. Heck, even the early part of April spoiled us. The past month in sports has been a five-course meal with all the fixings. In that span, we’ve gorged ourselves on NFL free agency, March Madness, the start of baseball season (and all the fantasy drafts leading up to it), The Masters—even WrestleMania.
But it had to end sometime and now restless sports nuts like myself are left to wonder what’s next. The NCAA tournament has come and gone, the Celtics are doomed, the NFL draft is two long weeks away and worst of all, Shohei Ohtani doesn’t pitch again until Friday.
To some, that may actually come as a relief. For the well-rounded individuals who aren’t constantly thinking about sports, the relative lull might be a good chance to catch up on DVR recordings (I’m two episodes behind on Atlanta), hit the gym, read a book or better yet, call it a night and get a tight eight hours.
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But you know darn well I did none of those things. To me, a day without sports is like a cookie without chocolate chips or The Office without Michael Scott. So instead of unplugging from the Internet or God forbid going outside (to be fair, it’s currently snowing in Connecticut), I spent my Monday wading through a sea of best-ball drafts on Draft.com. If you’ve been on our site recently, you’ll probably know that best-ball leagues are all the rage right now. Nick Mensio tackled some basic best-ball strategy in an article last month while Evan Silva, who has been posting links to best-ball leagues on a near-daily basis, updated his position tiers last week.
I’d be lying if I said I was an expert in best-ball leagues or Draft.com, which I used for the first time on Monday. I actually tried to start a best-ball league with some of my buddies on MFL (MyFantasyLeague) last year but couldn’t make it work because, well, most of them just didn’t get it. So let me get this straight. I draft my team and then … that’s it? Pretty wild, right? And that’s where I’d lose them.
I understand that managing your team throughout the year is half the fun of playing fantasy and best-ball essentially takes that component away. But let’s be honest about what best-ball really is. It’s a shot in the dark, a lottery ticket you can (hopefully) cash at the end of the season. But mostly, it’s an outlet for draft addicts to keep their minds occupied until August.
Best-ball drafts are both an excellent preparation for real leagues in the summer and a great way to gauge how the general public feels about certain players. For instance, I was fascinated to see where incoming rookies Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice would go in early best-ball leagues along with players who found new homes this offseason like Kirk Cousins and Allen Robinson. Obviously, a lot will change between now and August and only time will determine if the teams I drafted are even remotely successful. But remember, we’re in the information gathering stage. These leagues aren’t free, but to me and apparently nine others (you’ll see the results of my 10-team draft below), paying $3 for an early snapshot of the 2018 fantasy landscape was well worth the price of admission.
I was hoping to copy and paste the results for the entire draft but those didn’t seem to be available on Draft, so for now, you’re stuck looking at my sorry excuse for a best-ball team. Actually, it’s not that bad, but we’ll dive into that in a minute.
First, a little background. This was a 10-team, 18-round fast draft with 30 seconds per pick. That’s not very much time and I’m embarrassed to admit that two of the picks you see here were not actually made by me. Greg Olsen and Jack Doyle were both products of auto-draft—the computer must have a thing for tight ends. You’re probably thinking, Man, you’re pretty bad at this, Jesse. You’re not wrong, though I definitely showed signs of tangible improvement between this draft and the one that came before it when it took me a full three rounds to even figure out how to put players into my queue. Now let’s get to the results before I embarrass myself any further.
1.6 - Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
2.15 - Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
3.26 - Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
I would have taken Antonio Brown or David Johnson if either of them had fallen to No. 6 but I think I came away with a pretty good consolation prize in Kamara, the runaway Rookie of the Year and last year’s NFL leader in yards per carry. Beginning the draft by taking two guys from the same team is definitely a power move but can you ever have enough Saints? I should have gone for the trifecta with Drew Brees but couldn’t help myself when I saw Brady was still on the board at 75. Speaking of New England, Gronk remains a Patriot and I don’t see that changing between now and the start of the regular season despite retirement and trade rumors. Assuming that holds true, I think he’s a good value here in the third round. Of course, you need a backup plan with Gronk because he’s always hurt, which is why I actually didn’t mind when the computer stuck me with Olsen in Round 7 or when I clocked out again and got Doyle in Round 12.
4.35 - Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins
5.46 - Marvin Jones, WR, Lions
6.55 - Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
Running backs were flying off the board and Drake seemed like the best option available at this stage of the draft. The Dolphins brought in Frank Gore this offseason but I don’t see him occupying a major workload at age 35. Jones was a low-key beast last season, tying for fourth in the league with nine touchdown receptions while setting a career-high with over 1,100 receiving yards. I don’t love the Dez pick—I was hoping Larry Fitzgerald would fall to this round—but at 55th overall, I can’t complain. I think we can safely say Bryant is on the decline following another sub-1,000-yard season in 2017, but perhaps he’ll benefit from the return of Ezekiel Elliott and hopefully a healthy Tyron Smith to protect QB Dak Prescott.
7.66 - Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers
8.75 - Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
9.86 - Pierre Garcon, WR, 49ers
Brady did lose Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola this offseason but I think it will even out with Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell both coming back from injury. I was pretty high on Garcon last summer and he mostly came through for me (aside from the lack of touchdowns) until a neck injury ended his season. Marquise Goodwin will probably be Jimmy Garoppolo’s main downfield target but trust me—Garcon will get his.
10.95 - Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders
11.106 - C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
12.115 - Jack Doyle, TE, Colts
I know I raked his coach over the coals last week (and boy did you guys let me hear about it), but I thought Lynch actually looked pretty spry in his return to football last year. Even if Doug Martin makes the final 53, which is far from a guarantee after finishing dead-last in yards per carry each of the last two seasons, I don’t see him as a serious threat to Lynch’s workload. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington may be another story but I don’t think Martin will be the one stealing Lynch’s thunder. I don’t have any strong opinions about Anderson but he did rush for over 1,000 yards last season. That was enough for me to pull the trigger in Round 11. Doyle led the Colts in catches last year while functioning as Jacoby Brissett’s safety blanket. Andrew Luck’s health can’t be taken for granted but if he’s anywhere close to full strength, Doyle should be safe to pencil in as a TE1.
13.126 - Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
14.135 - Theo Riddick, RB, Lions
15.146 - Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins
Even with Brady as my QB1, I thought it was important to build depth at quarterback, which I accomplished by landing Ryan in Round 13. Ryan’s production fell off a cliff with Steve Sarkisian taking the reigns as offensive coordinator in 2017 but remember, Matty Ice won MVP while leading Atlanta to the Super Bowl a year earlier. And it never hurts having Julio Jones in your back pocket. You’re not going to find the perfect running back in Rounds 14 and 15. They’re all flawed. Riddick is an adept pass-catcher but has never established himself as much more than that while Perine took his lumps after being thrust into a workhorse role late last season. Detroit and Washington don’t offer much in the way of backfield depth, so whether you’re a fan or not, we can probably expect a heavy dose of both players in 2018.
16.155 - Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers
17.166 - Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
18.175 - John Brown, WR, Ravens
Bryant has plenty to prove heading into his contract year after an uneven 2017 campaign that included a one-week benching for lashing out at a teammate (JuJu Smith-Schuster) on social media. Martavis showed flashes down the stretch, though most of his production came when Antonio Brown was sidelined by a calf injury. Dalton isn’t going to wow anyone with his season-long totals, but he could have a few big weeks throwing to A.J. Green. That’s worth a late-round stab in best-ball. Brown’s talent has always been evident, though injuries related to a sickle-cell condition have hampered his production in recent years.
It’s no masterpiece, but no best-ball draft is. I’ll probably throw my hat in the best-ball ring a few more times throughout the offseason, maybe after the draft and again this summer to keep my draft muscles limber. As they say, practice makes perfect.