Here’s a dry run of draft expectations when holding the No. 4 slot in 12-team leagues (Points Per Reception scoring), working exclusively off an updated Average Draft Position chart from our friends at Fantasy Football Calculator.
NOTE: We made a conscious effort to land three running backs in the first four selections, essentially ignoring our ‘4-2-1’ system from previous years — a time-tested, PPR-enhanced process of grabbing four wideouts sometime in the first seven rounds.
Why the deviation?
There’s an overflow of quality receiving depth in the latter rounds; and as such, fantasy owners should feel emboldened to pursue high-end tailback options in the early rounds.
This is yet another perk of executing at least one mock per week, especially during this dark period of minimal live sports.
Preparation and experimentation breed draft-day confidence.
Round 1, Pick 4 overall: Motive — Best overall player
1st option: RB Dalvin Cook, Vikings
2nd option: WR Michael Thomas, Saints
3rd option: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
RATIONALE: Fantasy owners can expect a variance with Cook rankings. I have the Florida State product at No. 2 overall … but others might have Dalvin barely holding down the fort in Round 1.
The primary knock here: Cook has yet to play a full season in the pros, with last year’s output of 14 games serving as the career high.
For me, though, there are minimal worries about Cook’s longevity or sustainability:
a) For his first 13 games in 2019, Cook reached the elite-level threshold of 110 total yards and/or one touchdown 13 times; and against NFC North foes, the Vikings star owned stellar averages of 121 total yards and 1.3 TDs.
b) Citing the NFL’s eight worst rushing defenses from last year, in terms of touchdowns allowed, the Vikings will encounter six of the unique opponents (nine games total) in 2020 — including two meetings apiece with the Packers, Bears and Lions.
Round 2, Pick 21 overall: Motive — Best playmaker available
1st option: WR Mike Evans, Buccaneers
2nd option: QB Lamar Jackson, Ravens
3rd option: RB Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
RATIONALE: I genuinely want to be proven wrong with the following proclamation from early March:
Lamar Jackson won’t exceed 1,000 rushing yards in 2020.
What’s the logic behind such blasphemy, considering how Jackson easily rolled for 1,206 rushing yards and seven rushing scores in just 15 games last year?
It’s simple. The Ravens have likely done the math on quantifying the numbers of Jackson’s mega-extension in 2022, likely after Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson sign their massive new contracts; and when talking annual salaries north of $40 million, it’s imperative that Baltimore has Jackson available for 15-16 games, while chasing the franchise’s third run at the Lombardi Trophy.
The best way to ensure reasonable health every Sunday? Encouraging Jackson to modify his rushing prowess, as the Ravens’ cast of pass-catchers expands over time.
That’s not to say Jackson will have trouble hitting 35-plus touchdowns again. We’re merely skeptical about the overall rushing yards, especially with Ohio State tailback J.K. Dobbins fortifying an already-loaded backfield, via the NFL draft.
Round 3, Pick 28 overall: Motive — Best playmaker available
1st option: RB Chris Carson, Seahawks
2nd option: WR Kenny Golladay, Lions
3rd option: TE George Kittle, 49ers
RATIONALE: Carson owns stellar two-year averages of 1,405 total yards and nine touchdowns … despite missing three regular-season outings during this span.
And when in doubt, roll with the elite-level running backs at the top of the draft. There should be a flood of quality options, among wideouts, in the latter rounds.
Round 4, Pick 45 overall: Motive — Best overall player
1st option: RB Raheem Mostert, 49ers
2nd option: RB Mark Ingram, Ravens
3rd option: WR Stefon Diggs, Bills
RATIONALE: It’ll be interesting to see how fantasy pundits gauge Mostert, moving forward.
On the down side, Mostert could remain embroiled in a time-share situation, divvying carries and touches among the likes of Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson Jr. or even Jerick McKinnon, a lightning-fast asset who’s been plagued by major injuries for back-to-back seasons.
That said, it’s impossible to ignore Mostert’s absurd finishing kick to last season.
Citing his final nine games (including the playoffs), Mostert accounted for 13 total touchdowns … without registering more than 20 carries in a single outing.
And during that prolific span, Mostert produced sublime averages of 95.4 total yards and 1.4 TDs.
Round 5, Pick 52 overall: Motive — Best wideout available
1st option: WR Stefon Diggs, Bills
2nd option: WR DeVante Parker, Dolphins
3rd option: WR DJ Chark, Jaguars
RATIONALE: There’s some apprehension about grabbing Diggs at 52, given the lack of cohesion between him and quarterback Josh Allen (thanks, Coronavirus shutdown).
However, we remain optimistic about Diggs’ penchant for raising his game in Buffalo. We also hold vivid memories of a productive eight-game stretch from last year, when the former Vikings wideout averaged five catches, 97 yards and 0.5 touchdowns.
And keep in mind, this span included one near-invisible clunker of one catch and four yards versus the Chiefs.
Round 6, Pick 69 overall: Motive — Best playmaker available
1st option: WR DeVante Parker, Dolphins
2nd option: RB Marlon Mack, Colts
3rd option: RB Derrius Guice, Redskins
RATIONALE: Fantasy pundits might have Jaguars wideout DJ Chark (73 catches, 1,008 yards, 8 TDsd in 15 games last year) ranked ahead of Parker, through the appearance of more stability with the quarterbacking situation (Gardner Minshew’s the clear-cut starter in Jacksonville).
However, we’d argue the Dolphins will do everything in their power to assign a redshirt year to rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa, allowing him to fully mend from last year’s hip surgery and subsequently hit the ground running for 2021 — similar to how Patrick Mahomes transitioned with the Chiefs in 2017-18.
And if that’s the case, we look forward to 12, 14 or even 16 games of Ryan Fitzpatrick slinging it around to Parker, who averaged 5.1 catches, 82 yards and 0.7 TDs in his final 13 outings last year.
For this prolific stretch, Parker collected double-digit targets seven different times. He also tallied six catches, 90 yards and/or one touchdown on 10 occasions.
Round 7, Pick 76 overall: Motive — Best running back available
1st option: RB Marlon Mack, Colts
2nd option: RB Damien Williams, Chiefs
3rd option: RB Derrius Guice, Redskins
RATIONALE: Right now, I’m operating under the assumption of Mack being the Colts’ go-to back for Week 1, with Wisconsin rookie Jonathan Taylor serving as the backup rusher.
If things should change during training camp, we’d easily drop Mack for Damien Williams or Derrius Guice, who appears to have a stronghold on the RB1 slot with the Redskins.
Last season, Mack posted eight different outings of 90 total yards and/or one touchdown, despite logging 20-plus touches for merely seven games.
Round 8, Pick 93 overall: Motive — Best playmaker available
1st option: WR Jerry Jeudy, Broncos
2nd option: WR Christian Kirk, Cardinals
3rd option: QB Josh Allen, Bills
RATIONALE: For what it’s worth, I have Christian Kirk and Josh Allen ranked substantially higher than Jeudy.
That said, we’re willing to take an upside-based gamble at the 93rd spot, in hopes the Broncos rookie quickly lives up to the immense expectations, looking down the road.
It also helps that I’ve been a Jeudy supporter since Day 1 of his Alabama tenure.
The days of Jeudy wearing the label of a WR4 or WR5 in highly competitive PPR leagues might already be numbered.
Round 9, Pick 100 overall: Motive — Best QB1 available
1st option: QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
2nd option: QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
3rd option: QB Drew Lock, Broncos
RATIONALE: Stafford’s midseason injury served as a death knell for the eminently flawed Lions, who went 0-8 without their franchise signal-caller last season.
There were also fantasy consequences to swallow, since Stafford was on pace for 4,998 yards passing and 38 touchdowns … before going down with a serious-but-not-surgery-worthy back ailment.
Can Stafford produce another year of monster numbers?
**Unlike previous years, the Lions are blessed with high-upside playmakers at the tailback, receiver and tight end slots.
**The schedule-makers have apparently been very kind, since Detroit draws the vulnerable pass defenses from the AFC South (Texans, Colts, Jaguars) and NFC South (Bucs, Falcons, Saints).
**Stafford posted the third-highest average of points among quarterbacks last year (25.9 per game). The two passers ranked ahead? Lamar Jackson and Jameis Winston … currently Drew Brees’ backup in New Orleans.
Round 10, Pick 117 overall: Motive — Best defense/special teams
1st option: D/ST Baltimore Ravens
2nd option: D/ST New England Patriots
Round 11, Pick 124 overall: Motive — Best playmaker available
1st option: TE Austin Hooper, Browns
2nd option: WR Sterling Shepard, Giants
3rd option: WR Mike Williams, Chargers
RATIONALE: With the Falcons last season, Hooper (75 catches, 97 targets, 787 yards, 6 TDs) enjoyed career-best marks across the board; and yet, fantasy owners should feel optimistic about the 26-year-old’s still-roomy ceiling, moving forward.
For instance, replicating 97 targets will likely be a stretch in Cleveland, given the Browns’ arsenal of potentially dominant playmakers (Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt, David Njoku).
On the plus side of that, Hooper might never encounter a between-the-20s double team all season with Cleveland, let alone the red zone.
So, it might be a reasonable swap to cede slightly fewer catches and targets … for a tangible bump in touchdowns.
Put it all together, and pick 124 represents good value for Hooper — BATSBY Sports’ fifth-ranked tight end.
Round 12, Pick 141 overall: Motive — Best wideout or tight end
1st option: WR Mike Williams, Chargers
2nd option: WR Robby Anderson, Jets
3rd option: TE T.J. Hockenson, Lions
RATIONALE: We’re still targeting youth, athleticism and depth-chart viability at the WR5 slot, even with the earlier addition of Jeudy.
Enter Williams, the mammoth-sized wideout who led the NFL in yards per catch last year (20.4), and managed to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards … without the benefit of 50 catches or three-plus touchdowns.
The only drawback: Williams must develop quick continuity with Tyrod Taylor (likely the Chargers’ first-half QB starter), before pivoting to rookie Justin Herbert, the franchise’s purported anchor for the next 10-12 years.
Round 13, Pick 148 overall: Motive — Best backup tight end
1st option: TE T.J. Hockenson, Lions
2nd option: TE Eric Ebron, Steelers
3rd option: TE Dallas Goedert, Eagles
Round 14, Pick 165 overall: Motive — Best kicker available
1st option: PK Zane Gonzalez, Cardinals
2nd option: PK Brandon McManus, Broncos
3rd option: PK Younghoe Koo, Falcons
RATIONALE: Gonzalez finished in the top four with field goals made/attempted last year.
That production might flatten a bit this season … in anticipation of the Cardinals rolling for 40-plus touchdowns.
Sounds like a good trade-off for Round 14.
Round 15, Pick 172 overall: Motive — Best tailback (preferably a handcuff)
1st option: RB Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
2nd option: RB Ito Smith, Falcons
3rd option: RB Darrynton Evans, Titans
Round 16, Pick 189 overall: Motive — Best backup quarterback
1st option: QB Kirk Cousins, Vikings
2nd option: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins
3rd option: QB Sam Darnold, Jets
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ByJayClemons.