What if your league-mates gave you a draft-day do-over?
Would you have rolled the dice on Devonta Freeman instead of a “safe” pick like Jamal Charles or, heaven forbid, C.J. Anderson?
Would you let Andrew Luck slide on by and grab Cam Newton instead?
Maybe pass up Jimmy Graham for, say…let’s see…15…other…tight…ends?
Sadly, there are no do-overs in fantasy football. (No, I still don’t recognize daily fantasy leagues.) But there sure is plenty of second-guessing. Yes, friends, it’s time to adjust our rear-view mirrors as we explore what could have been with my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft: The Final Answer.
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 Adrian Peterson. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. And finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.
Now, with the fifth pick of the 2015 Perfect Draft, we should have selected…
Round 1: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. As is often the case, many of the consensus first-rounders failed to measure up to their lofty draft status. Not Gronk.
Round 2: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, Giants. He lived up to the hype from his stellar rookie season, but his Week 16 suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time. That is, for most teams. This roster can absorb the hit without flinching.
Round 3: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans. Given that he soared despite playing with four different mediocre quarterbacks, Hopkins just might be the best receiver on the planet.
Round 4: Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets. All he did was score at least one touchdown in three-quarters of his games, and exceed 100 receiving yards 10 times.
Round 5: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. The Fantasy Rookie of the Year proved that he is true franchise material. If the Rams acquire some talent to put around him, Gurley could be one for the ages.
Round 6: Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers. Nobody is more surprised than me that Martin excelled this year; but I must give him his due. As in his rookie year, a disproportionate share of his touchdowns came in one game; yet he managed to produce on a more consistent basis throughout the season.
Round 7: Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars. No receiver had more than his 14 TD receptions, and he plays in Jacksonville, for crying out loud.
Round 8: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals. He hasn’t lost a step. Fitz just needed his quarterback to stay upright.
Round 9: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Weren’t we all convinced that Cam was toast once Kelvin Benjamin went down in the preseason? Yeah, what do we know?
Round 10: Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons. Freeman slowed down from his blistering pace around midseason, but kicked it back into gear down the stretch. A backup to start the year, Freeman finished as the No. 1 fantasy back in the league.
Round 11: Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers. The problem with Woodhead is guessing which week to start him. So we probably won’t. But let’s not take the chance that our competitors will time it right.
Round 12: Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. He stayed healthy and took full advantage of the talented wide receiver trio at his disposal. Palmer finished in the Top 5 QB ranks, and we could have waited a few more rounds to take him.
Round 13: Broncos defense/special teams. Denver boasted the top fantasy D/ST in the land for most of the season, though they sputtered down the stretch. If we’re really brilliant, we’ll drop the Broncos at their Week 7 bye, grab the Chiefs off waivers and ride them the rest of the way.
Round 14: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers. If we were smart enough to start him in Weeks 1 and 2, and to hang onto him until Week 8 when Le’Veon Bell went down, we had ourselves a gem.
Round 15: Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. We may be tempted to drop him around mid-season, but no receiver will be more valuable as we head into the postseason. He scored 12 of his 14 TDs from Week 10 on.
Round 16: Gary Barnidge, TE, Browns. He broke into the NFL in 2008 and you’d never heard his name until Week 3 of this season. Crazy.
Round 17: Graham Gano, K, Panthers. Stephen Gostkowski finished on top, again; but he would have cost us a 12th rounder, or higher. Gano was nearly as prodigious, and a much better bargain.
The good news is you didn’t need to draft this well to win a title. But it sure would have been fun.
That does it for this season. Thanks, once again, for following my column. Check in on the Fantasy Fools blog for offseason developments and we’ll be back in August to prep for the elusive Perfect Draft.
Ladd Biro is a two-time winner and four-time finalist of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).