BATSBY Sports offers a dry run of expectations when holding the No. 11 draft slot in 12-team drafts (PPR scoring), working exclusively off an ESPN.com mock from Aug. 2.
For this 16-round draft, with two tailbacks, two wide receivers and a RB/WR flex as starters, I initially planned to adopt the time-tested ‘4-2-1 strategy’ in PPR leagues, calling for four high-end receivers, two targets-friendly tailbacks and either a top-seven quarterback or top-five tight end for the first seven rounds.
However, we became entranced by the overflowing running back depth for Rounds 5-7, pursuing high-upside rookies, speedsters with great numbers (when healthy) and established power backs who can still carry fantasy teams once or twice per year.
So, as a reflex, we happily adjusted on the fly.
ROUND 1 (Pick 11) — MOTIVE: Best running back available
OPTION #1: RB Jonathan Taylor, Colts
OPTION #2: RB Aaron Jones, Packers
OPTION #3: RB Austin Ekeler, Chargers
Taylor was a wrecking-ball performer in his final seven games as a rookie, notching elite-level averages of 132 total yards and 1.3 touchdowns. He also produced a staggering catch-to-target rate of 92 percent, while netting four outings of four-plus catches.
What does this spell for the future? Even with Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack in the Indy backfield, Taylor seems like a good bet for 50 targets — thus bolstering his pursuit of another campaign with 1,400 total yards and double-digit touchdowns.
ROUND 2 (Pick 14) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: RB Austin Ekeler, Chargers
OPTION #2: WR Stefon Diggs, Bills
OPTION #3: WR Calvin Ridley, Falcons
The enigmatic Chargers won their final four games last season, tightening Justin Herbert’s vise-like grip on the quarterbacking job.
Here’s something else to celebrate: Ekeler, who missed six games to injury in 2020, was similarly stellar during that four-game winning streak, posting stellar per-outing averages of 17.1 points during that span.
Put it all together, and Ekeler makes perfect sense early in Round 2. When healthy, Ekeler’s a solid bet for 90-plus catches and 1,400 total yards.
What’s more, the diminutive dynamo owns an excellent catch-to-target rate of 84 percent over the last two seasons.
ROUND 3 (Pick 35) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: WR Diontae Johnson, Steelers
OPTION #2: WR Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team
OPTION #3: TE George Kittle, 49ers
Last year, Johnson easily posted career highs in catches (88), targets (144), receiving yards (923) and touchdowns (seven).
Of equal importance, in his final 10 outings last season, the University of Toledo product collected double-digit targets eight times.
ROUND 4 (Pick 38) — MOTIVE: Best wideout or quarterback available
OPTION #1: WR Adam Thielen, Vikings
OPTION #2: QB Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
OPTION #3: QB Josh Allen, Bills
Adam Thielen could be the most volatile fantasy asset of the preseason, in terms of gauging the WILD SWINGS with Average Draft Position.
Why is that?
For starters, fantasygoers will have to play a confounding game of, ‘Which is the real outlier?‘ — Thielen’s career-best tally of 14 touchdowns last year … or that his catches and targets were woefully short of 2018 trends.
For me, the projectable truth typically falls somewhere in the middle. Heading into his age-31 campaign, Thielen has the viability of 90-plus catches and 130 targets … but no reasonable person should expect a repeat of 14 scores.
ROUND 5 (Pick 59) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: RB Javonte Williams, Broncos
OPTION #2: RB Travis Etienne, Jaguars
OPTION #3: QB Lamar Jackson, Ravens
The BATSBY project has the rookie Williams ranked behind Raheem Mostert, Mike Davis, Chris Carson and Darrell Henderson; but we couldn’t resist the notion of reaching for Williams in Round 5, knowing he’ll be supported by a number of veteran backs.
Despite sharing the load with Michael Carter (now of the Jets) at North Carolina last year, Williams still amassed 1,445 total yards and 22 touchdowns.
In a nutshell, he’s a risk worth taking so early in the draft. Plenty of upside here.
ROUND 6 (Pick 62) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: RB Raheem Mostert, 49ers
OPTION #2: WR Robby Anderson, Panthers
OPTION #3: TE T.J. Hockenson, Lions
I might be the only fantasy expert who’d dare take Mostert at Round 6 in PPR drafts, given his injury history, middling scoring production last year (three TDs) and lack of targets consistency within the San Francisco passing offense.
However, I’m not ready to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. We’re still talking about the same lightning-fast Mostert who notched 13 total touchdowns (12 rushing) in his final nine games of the 2019 campaign — including the playoffs and Super Bowl.
ROUND 7 (Pick 83) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: RB David Johnson, Texans
OPTION #2: WR Jerry Jeudy, Broncos
OPTION #3: RB Melvin Gordon, Broncos
Here are two reasons why we’re not abandoning Johnson in fantasyland, despite the flood of veteran runners in the Texans’ backfield (Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, Rex Burkhead):
a) Johnson produced four total touchdowns (three rushing) in his final four games last season.
b) The Northern Iowa product conjured up glorious memories of the old Johnson against the Colts in Week 15, catching all 11 targets for 106 receiving yards.
ROUND 8 (Pick 86) — MOTIVE: Best wide receiver available
OPTION #1: WR Marquise Brown, Ravens
OPTION #2: WR Tyler Boyd, Bengals
Brown forged a big-time rally from last year’s zero-catch clunker against the Titans (Week 11). Over the next eight games (including the playoffs), Brown collected six-plus targets seven times, four-plus catches seven times and found the end zone six times.
And in terms of game-changing plays, it’s easy to look back at Brown’s game-clinching score against Cleveland and loudly wonder, ‘Why can’t Brown do something electric EVERY week?’
ROUND 9 (Pick 107) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: WR Marvin Jones Jr., Jaguars
OPTION #2: WR Cole Beasley, Bills
OPTION #3: RB Jamaal Williams, Lions
Strange but true: The criminally underrated Jones has posted four seasons of nine or more touchdowns in his nine-year NFL run. And yet, he still found a way to post career highs in catches (76) and targets (116) with the Lions last year.
Fast forward to the present: Jones has the potential to be Trevor Lawrence’s go-to option in the Jaguars’ passing offense, even though DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault and rookie tailback Travis Etienne could garner higher-round love in PPR drafts.
And that’s fine … for most people.
Lest we forget, when Jones last suited up for an NFL game (Week 17 vs. the Vikings), he rolled for eight catches, 11 targets, 180 yards and two touchdowns.
ROUND 10 (Pick 110) — MOTIVE: Best defense/special teams available
OPTION #1: D/ST Pittsburgh Steelers (top-3 ranking in sacks, interceptions, defensive TDs last season)
ROUND 11 (Pick 131) — MOTIVE: Best QB1 available
OPTION #1: QB Matthew Stafford, Rams (our No. 10 quarterback, right after Tom Brady)
OPTION #2: QB Ryan Tannehill, Titans
OPTION #3: QB Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars
ROUND 12 (Pick 134) — MOTIVE: Best kicker available
OPTION #1: PK Harrison Butker, Chiefs (connected on 59 of 65 field goals since 2019)
ROUND 13 (Pick 155) — MOTIVE: Best tight end with upside
OPTION #1: TE Tyler Higbee, Rams (stacked with Stafford at TE1)
OPTION #2: TE Dallas Goedert, Eagles
OPTION #3: TE Jared Cook, Chargers
ROUND 14 (Pick 158) — MOTIVE: Best backup quarterback available
OPTION #1: QB Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Cousins has averaged 4,055 yards passing and 31.3 touchdowns in three seasons with the Vikings. He’s also flanked by two top-15 fantasy wideouts (Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen).
And yet, Cousins can easily be had at Rounds 15 or 16 in fantasy drafts. What an absurdly low value … for a bankable asset on NFL Sundays.
ROUND 15 (Pick 179) — MOTIVE: Best receiver with upside
OPTION #1: WR Breshad Perriman, Lions
OPTION #2: WR Rashod Bateman, Ravens
OPTION #3: WR Mike Williams, Chargers
ROUND 16 (Pick 182) — MOTIVE: Best handcuff option at running back
OPTION #1: RB Marlon Mack, Colts (injury protection against Jonathan Taylor)