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Best ball draft: An all-fantasy football analyst mock for a 12-team PPR league

In honor of best ball draft season, our fantasy football crew teamed up with analysts from across the industry to help you get ready with a 12-team PPR mock draft.

We’ll run through the results below, but first, let’s meet our experts in the order they drafted:

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  • Scott Barrett: Scott is the Director of Analytics at FantasyPoints.
  • Matt Kelley: Matt is also known as The Podfather of RotoUnderworld Radio and creator of PlayerProfiler.
  • Liz Loza: Liz is a fantasy football analyst at Yahoo! Sports.
  • Sean Koerner: Sean is the Director of Predictive Analytics at Action and one of our rankers.
  • Shawn Siegele: Shawn is an analyst at RotoViz (and wrote the original Zero RB story).
  • Davis Mattek: Davis is a fantasy football analyst at SportsGrid and is behind the Taekcast podcast.
  • Rich Hribar: Rich is an analyst at Sharp Football Analysis.
  • Katie Richcreek: Katie is a senior editor at Action and oversees the fantasy football vertical.
  • Evan Silva: Evan is an analyst and one of the brains behind EstablishTheRun.
  • JJ Zachariason: JJ is the editor-in-chief at FanDuel and numberFire. He also popularized the late-round quarterback strategy.
  • Matthew Freedman: Matthew is the editor-in-chief of FantasyLabs and one of our rankers.
  • Chris Raybon: Chris is an analyst at Action and one of our rankers.

Since this was an 18-round draft involving 12 people (and their schedules), we opted for a slow email draft. That means there was news that broke as the draft unfolded that impacted picks that had already been made.

Now let’s start with an overall snapshot of the mock draft results — you can also jump to round-by-round version at the end of this story — then dig into each person’s strategies below.

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Now let’s take a closer look at each team and their strategies.

Best Ball Draft Strategy By Team

Barrett’s Picks & Strategy

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

I’ll be honest, I do tend to get cute in mock drafts. Better to try out various strategies now than when there’s money on the line. That’s what I did here with #ZeroWR approach.

Wide receiver is the best quantity over quality position in best ball leagues, having the deepest reservoir of fantasy-relevant names and being the position with the most week-to-week volatility. For instance, I took Jamison Crowder as the 44th wide receiver off the board. He’s a value in the sense that he finished 35th in fantasy points per game. But he’s an even greater value in best ball leagues — or, at least he was last year, when he reached 18.5 fantasy points in six games (trailing only Davante Adams and Michael Thomas).

Landing the 1.01 spot and Christian McCaffrey is a massive, massive advantage. Drafting two tight ends early freed up another spot for a wide receiver, as did early capital on running backs. Bell cow running backs aren’t as hyper-valuable in best ball leagues, but I like the ones I grabbed here. I feel fine with my two quarterbacks, considering where I took them.

Really it all comes down to whether or not my nine late-round wide receivers can keep pace with someone like Silva’s six early-round wide receivers. It’s a shame we couldn’t watch this play out.

Kelley’s Picks & Strategy

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

Pick 1.02 offers the best opportunity at a well-executed Robust RB draft strategy.

Here are my thoughts on each pick:

  • 1.02; Saquon Barkley: With the run-oriented Jason Garrett’s arrival, Daniel Jones’ continued development, and significant offensive line improvements, generational talent Barkley should challenge Christian McCaffrey in both the rushing and receiving departments.
  • 2.11; Austin Ekeler: After finishing 2019 as the NFL’s most efficient running back, a massive opportunity share boost should offset Ekeler’s assured efficiency regression in 2020.
  • 3.02; Leonard Fournette: Targets are “earned” unless your name is Leonard Fournette. After posting 316 Weighted Opportunities (No. 2 among NFL running backs) last season, Fournette enters a contract year at the peak of his powers and is yet somehow still available in the third round of fantasy drafts.
  • 4.11; Robert Woods: The fourth round is wide receiver Shangri-La, and Woods operated as Jared Goff’s true No. 1 last season.
  • 5.02; David Johnson: Gross.
  • 6.11; De’Andre Swift: Kerryon Johnson will be easily relegated by the most versatile running back in the 2020 NFL Draft.
  • 7.02; Kyler Murray: Sniped on Jarvis Landry, The Podfather panicked and mistakenly selected Murray with the safer Russell Wilson still on the board. Oops.
  • 8.11; Hunter Henry: Prefer Gronkowski but hoping to scoop him at the 9.02 to start an old fashioned tight end run.
  • 9.02; Rob Gronkowski: Haven’t you heard? Gronk is BAAAAAAAACK!!!
  • 10.11; Tom Brady: With only 18 rounds, paying up for Brady’s stability and devoting just two roster spots to quarterback makes sense. The Brady-Gronk correlation stack is a nice bonus.
  • 11.02; Sterling Shepard: Did you know Shepard scored more fantasy points per game than A.J. Brown, Odell Beckham, TY Hilton, Terry McLaurin and Courtland Sutton last season?
  • 12.11; Emmanuel Sanders: Robust RB makes sense in best ball, because starting wide receivers on explosive offenses are available throughout the double-digit rounds.
  • 13.02; Justin Jefferson: Another projected starting wide receiver with major upside.
  • 14.11; Parris Campbell: Yet another projected starting wide receiver with major upside.
  • 15.02; O.J. Howard: The rare tight end handcuff with standalone value and correlated upside with Brady.
  • 16.11; Larry Fitzgerald: Inexpensive high-floor correlation stack with Murray.
  • 17.02; Andy Isabella: Inexpensive high-upside correlation stack with Murray.
  • 18.11; Russell Gage: The cheapest target volume play in all of fantasy.

Loza’s Picks & Strategy

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

My plan was to select a running back in four of the first five rounds while supplementing with a foundational WR a la Allen Robinson. But then Koerner took Josh Jacobs (who is an every-draft target of mine), so I decided to get loose and roster Lamar. After all, it’s hard not to be tempted by a QB who averaged nearly seven yards per attempt and more than 80 rushing yards per game last year.

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Admittedly, my choices from that point forward lacked substantial flash or upside, but high-floor/volume players like Todd Gurley, Mark Ingram and Keenan Allen complement a ceiling reach like Jackson nicely (yes, even in best ball).

For the most part, the draft was smooth and painless … until about Round 12. That’s when everyone’s favorite sleepers really started showing up. Ironically, all three players (Antonio Brown, N’Keal Harry and Anthony Miller) in my queue went just before my turn. The silver lining to this was that I discovered Curtis Samuel was still available. I understand that Teddy isn’t the ideal QB to unlock Samuel’s full potential and that Robby Anderson could siphon looks, but the former Buckeye has the versatility to be used all over the field and, therefore, out-kick his late-round ADP.

Speaking of favorite sleepers, one of mine is New England’s third-round pick from a year ago, Damien Harris. I anticipate he’ll end the season leading the Pats’ RBs in touches and productivity, as he’s the backfield’s only multiple talent.

Oh, and speaking of multiple talents, Silva’s masterful selection of Boston Scott in the 13th round already has the Miles Sanders truthers sweating.

Koerner’s Picks & Strategy

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

You can read all about my best ball strategies in my Tiers series, but here’s a quick rundown of who I was able to grab, by position.

QB: Russell Wilson and Jared Goff.

I was able to lock up both QBs at discounts. Wilson fell to me in the eighth, and I was able to snag Goff in the 14th. Wilson provides a high floor/ceiling, while Goff can provide some spiked weeks.

RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Josh Jacobs, James White, Sony Michel, Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon.

Despite having the fourth overall pick, I was able to land Zeke. Josh Jacobs takes a bit of a hit in a full PPR format, but I couldn’t pass him up with him still available at the end of Round 2. I liked the idea of pairing both White and Michel in best ball. White will provide a solid weekly floor, with Michel having the occasional spiked weeks.

WR: Kenny Golladay, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Lockett, A.J. Green, Anthony Miller, Michael Pittman and Alshon Jeffery.

Given the league settings (full-PPR/3 WR/2 FLEX), I highly valued the WR position in this draft. I was thrilled to land A.J. Green as my WR4. When filling out my bench, I decided to go with a high floor play in Anthony Miller and a high ceiling in Michael Pittman.

Alshon Jeffery was a bit of a sneaky pick here. He could miss the first few games of 2020, but I won’t even need him until Week 5, at the earliest.

I was also able to create two high-end QB/WR stacks with Wilson/Lockett and Goff/Kupp. Stacking is a strategic way to increase your team’s ceiling and is often underused because it can be challenging to pull off. The fact that I was able to create two of them without reaching any player was a massive win for me.

TE: Jared Cook, Dallas Goedert and Will Dissly,

I view Rounds 9-11 as the sweet spot to target TE this year. Landing Cook/Goedert in that range was a huge win for me. Cook will provide plenty of spiked weeks, while Goedert has become a low-end TE1, despite playing alongside Zach Ertz. Goedert carries the hidden upside of providing top-five TE value if Ertz were to miss any time. Dissly could be a sneaky pick this year if he stays healthy. He joins my Wilson/Lockett stack.

Siegele’s Picks & Strategy

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

Drawing the No. 5 slot offers flexibility. Although there’s some risk of a holdout, selecting Dalvin Cook provides a stud RB1 to build around. A 1-Elite-RB construction provides the best floor and ceiling for best ball builds. Beyond Cook, the RotoViz Best Ball Workshop demonstrates the value of a WR-heavy build when paired with a star TE (Zach Ertz).

Best ball is a race to get five high-caliber WRs before your opponents, and the presence of Cook and Ertz in the first three rounds gave me the freedom to pursue five receivers for the other picks through Round 7.

Faced with an RB board that didn’t offer much value at that point, I had the opportunity to pivot for two high-end QBs in Deshaun Watson (QB5) and Josh Allen (QB7). Best ball rewards drafting QBs a little earlier than conventional redraft, and having two above-average starters saves a roster spot later on.

In the double-digit rounds, I looked for value plays to augment the earlier structural approach. Mike Gesicki fell to TE16, while N’Keal Harry represents a compelling breakout play at a bargain-basement price.

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My goal at RB is to stockpile a mix of elite veterans (Phillip Lindsay), pass-catching backs (Nyheim Hines) and rookie handcuffs with a hint of standalone appeal (A.J. Dillon, Darrynton Evans and Lynn Bowden). All three categories have offered good historical returns from a win rate perspective and help balance a team that emphasizes WR early.

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Mattek’s Picks & Strategy

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

Pick at 1.06 is a big disadvantage as you have to watch the top tier RBs disintegrate in front of you. I took Mike Thomas and knew that my RB strategy would be aiming at high-upside, younger RBs for the rest of the draft to give me ceiling at a position without an anchoring stud.

Most importantly, I was able to stack Dak Prescott with CeeDee Lamb and Blake Jarwin. Nothing is as important in best ball leagues than creating high-upside stacks. I was also able to stack my favorite value WR (D.J. Moore) with his quarterback. The selection of three tight ends was made affordable with Mike Thomas accounting for so many of my weekly WR slots.

If I win this league, a few things will have likely occurred: First, Clyde Edwards Helaire will have to be the starter in KC. The same is true for Cam Akers. Antonio Brown returning to the NFL falls in this category as well.

Overall, I felt very good both strategically and with the actual players that I selected in this draft.

Hribar’s Picks

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

Richcreek’s Picks & Strategy

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

With the wide receiver pool as deep as it is in 2020, I focused on securing a couple of workhorse running backs (Nick Chubb and James Conner) and a top tight end (George Kittle) early on — positions that see a much faster drop-off in talent.

That strategy allowed me to go all-in on WRs between Rounds 4-7, starting with JuJu Smith-Schuster, who could very well outperform his average draft position (ADP) as the WR14 with the bump in targets he should see with Ben Roethlisberger back under center — something I’m much more wiling to risk betting on in this format.

Michael Gallup and Marquise Brown should also have high weekly ceilings.

Now time to address the elephant in the room: With the way the draft was unfolding when I pre-drafted my Rounds 13-14 picks before going completely off the grid to camp for a couple days, I didn’t think Baker Mayfield and Drew Lock would fall to me. I figured if it went as planned, I might land one of the two, or neither — but certainly not both.

Lesson learned. And who knows, maybe that Lock and Jerry Jeudy stack will look sharp in retrospect.

Silva’s Picks

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

Zachariason’s Picks

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

Freedman’s Picks & Strategy

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

I’m happy with my draft but not ecstatic. Picking near the 1/2 turn, I went with a Chiefs stack by selecting wide receiver Tyreek Hill (1.11) and tight end Travis Kelce (2.02), and I hoped to add quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Round 3, but Evan Silva drafted him two picks ahead of me.

At that point, I pivoted to running back and took Le’Veon Bell as the RB19 at 3.11, where he provides a lot of value with a 1,200-yard floor and top-five upside if everything breaks right.

After that, I employed a modified Zero RB approach by attacking the wide receiver position in Rounds 4-7 with the selections of Odell Beckham Jr. (WR11), DeVante Parker (WR27), Deebo Samuel (WR29) and Henry Ruggs III (WR40).

Unfortunately, it was only after I drafted Deebo — but before I had a chance to draft Brandon Aiyuk — that news of his foot injury broke. If the news cycle had played out differently, I would have been happy to draft Will Fuller or Marquise Brown as the WR29 instead of Deebo.

After hitting the wide receiver position, I pivoted back to running back for Rounds 8-9 by drafting Ronald Jones II (RB33) and Derrius Guice (RB40). Both players have a realistic chance of leading their backfields this year: They both carry risk — but that’s why they were available so late in the draft. Ultimately, I like the upside they provide at their acquisition cost.

In Rounds 10-11 I went with Mike Williams (WR47) and Sammy Watkins (WR54), both of whom I like as upside options who are capable of contributing a few week-winning performances. I think Williams specifically has 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown potential, and Watkins gives me another piece of the Kansas City offense as an arbitrage play on the more expensive Mecole Hardman.

In Round 12 I grabbed Ian Thomas (TE20) as one of the last tight ends I’d be comfortable rostering as my TE2, and then in Round 13 I added running back Latavius Murray, who has some standalone value as a touchdown scorer in the high-scoring New Orleans offense and could go off as a lead back if Alvin Kamara misses some games.

In Round 14 I finally addressed the quarterback position by drafting Ben Roethlisberger (QB18). Given that I was the last person in the draft to take a quarterback, I think I got tremendous value at the position in getting Roethlisberger, who before his injury last year was perennially a top-12 fantasy producer on a points-per-game basis.

In Rounds 15-16, I stacked upside rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR72) with quarterback Gardner Minshew (QB24). Shenault might truly be the best wide receiver in this class, and Minshew I expect to progress in his second year in the league, especially with new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

In Rounds 17-18, I closed out the draft by adding two more upside rookie wide receivers in Chase Claypool (WR86) and K.J. Hamler (WR87). In Claypool, I get a potential touchdown-scoring stacking partner with Roethlisberger. In Hamler, I get a playmaking speedster who should start almost immediately in Denver and could have some peak weeks against soft coverage playing alongside Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.

In retrospect, I wish I could’ve stacked my quarterbacks with more obviously impactful receivers, but given that I took my passers so late in the draft, I’m pleased with the outcome of this draft.

Raybon’s Picks & Strategy

An All-Fantasy Football Analyst Mock For A 12-Team PPR League

QB has the largest surplus of value, so my strategy was to wait. Daniel Jones and Joe Burrow are my top two late-round targets due to their rushing ability and shaky defenses.

My RB strategy was dictated by my draft slot. Picking at the turn means there will be Tier 1 WRs available, but not-top tier RBs. To make up for fading RB in Rounds 1-2, I drafted three RB2 types with RB1 upside in the first six rounds: Chris Carson, who averaged 21.0 touches per game last season and is on track for Week 1; Devin Singletary, who averaged 18.9 touches per game over his last eight; and Raheem Mostert, who piled up 13 TDs in his last nine regular and postseason games.

After that, I’m looking for RBs who can put up RB1 numbers if the starter goes down. Tony Pollard in particular is a top target of mine; he broke 26 tackles on just 101 touches and led all RBs in elusive rating in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.

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At WR, I target only players who have a realistic shot at leading their team in air yards. T.Y. Hilton, Darius Slayton and DeSean Jackson fit the bill. Denzel Mims only has Breshad Perriman — who has never posted more than 645 receiving yards in a season — in his way.

Miles Boykin is a shot in the dark super sleeper. His aDOT was 17.2 as a rookie, his QB led the league in TD passes, and with Seth Roberts and Hayden Hurst gone, Boykin could be an every down player who takes a major leap in 2020. Especially in a sharp league like this, I like to have at least one super differentiation pick that would otherwise go undrafted, and Boykin is that guy for me here.

At TE, there tends to not be much value to be found outside the TE1 ranks, so ideally I want two TE1s, but that didn’t work out. Still, I got my top target outside the big four in Hurst, whom I believe has the clearest path of any non-stud to catching five balls per game; Austin Hooper averaged 5.8 last season. I also landed my top TE2 target in Ebron, who caught 13 TD passes in 2018 with Andrew Luck and now gets Ben Roethlisberger, who threw 34 in his last full season. Greg Olsen was my obligatory auto-pick.

Check out The Action Network for more expert sports betting information and to find the best online sportsbooks.

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