Early MFL10 Observations

By Jen Ryan
February 27, 2017 was the day the itch was scratched for people like me. The fine folks over at My Fantasy League kicked the doors open to their MFL10 lobby, and I got busy right away. If you are unfamiliar with MFL10’s and the best ball format, you can read the primer I wrote on them here: There is No Offseason MFL10s are Opening this Week. As of this publication, I have entered 13 leagues and completed drafts in eight of them. This is clearly nothing compared to the person atop the leaderboard, the infamous “Aaron H” who has already entered 73 drafts. Not all heroes wear capes, and Aaron H is mine. You can follow every draft I enter right on the FootballDiehards.com homepage. Here are some observations from my completed drafts so far.

Buyer’s Beware – Shiny New Toys

Ezekiel Elliott finished as the RB2 in fantasy football last year, right behind David Johnson. Michael Thomas finished as the WR7, and scored the same 259 PPR points that Julio Jones did in 2016. Through two weeks of MFL10’s, rookies are being drafted at inflated ADP’s. The recency bias of Elliott and Thomas’ rookie campaigns as well of as the saturation of the dynasty crowd may have an effect. Here are the five rookies being drafted in the top ten rounds:
- Leonard Fournette: 3.06
- Dalvin Cook: 4.01
- Christian McCaffrey: 5.01
- Joe Mixon: 5.12
- Corey Davis: 7.04

Emil Kadlec compiled rookie data dating back to 2011 and was kind enough to share his spreadsheet with me. The data includes where players were drafted in the NFL draft and their end of season ranking for the first three seasons of their career. Of the results of Emil’s historical rookie data, history tells us to temper our expectations:
- Since 2011, two drafted rookie running backs have finished as a top five back. Doug Martin was the RB2 in 2012 and, as I previously mentioned, Ezekiel Elliott finished as the RB2 in 2016.
- Seven drafted rookies have finished as an RB1 over the same time frame. Joining the two mentioned above are Trent Richardson (RB8, 2012), Eddie Lacy (RB8, 2013), David Johnson (RB8, 2015), Todd Gurley (RB9, 2015), and Jeremy Hill (RB10, 2014).
- Giovani Bernard (RB13, 2013), Le’Veon Bell (RB15, 2013), Duke Johnson (RB24, 2015), and Roy Helu (RB24, 2011) are the only drafted running backs to have RB2 rookie campaigns.
- Odell Beckham is the only drafted rookie wide receiver to have a WR1 rookie season. He was the WR7 in 2013, despite missing the first four games of his career.
- Mike Evans (WR13, 2014), Kelvin Benjamin (WR15, 2014), A.J. Green (WR17, 2011), Amari Cooper (WR21, 2015), and Julio Jones (WR21, 2011) are the only drafted rookies receivers to have WR2 rookie campaigns.

They say history repeats itself and history tells us that very few rookies have top 24 rookie seasons at their position. The ADP of the current rookies is far too rich for my blood, and I implore you to not be lured in by these shiny, new toys at their cost.

Overcorrection – Zero RB is so 2015

We are all aware of the Zero RB debate. 2014 was a running back apocalypse with injuries so 2015 was the year to draft receivers early, and it hit. Last year, running backs bounced back and the overcorrection is upon is. The top three picks in 2016 were typically Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, and Antonio Brown in no particular order. So far in 2017, the top three picks are David Johnson (1.01), Le’Veon Bell (1.02), and Ezekiel Elliott (1.03). Naturally, this is causing receivers to slip a bit in general. Where in the past it took a top three pick to land Beckham, he has been drafted at 1.07. A.J. Green, a consensus top five pick last year, was recently grabbed at 1.12. DeAndre Hopkins has been taken as late as the third round, and the fourth round has seen both Demaryius Thomas and Alshon Jeffery fall there. This is crazy value for players with WR1 upside.

Injury Discounts – Don’t Pass Them Up

There are some early injury discounts and I have personally been taking advantage of them. Rob Gronkowski has scored 58 touchdowns since 2011, second only to Dez Bryant’s 61 touchdowns. The former first round pick is falling as far down as 3.08. I drafted Gronkowski 3.05 in a league I am in. If he is on the field for the whole season I would be willing to be money I will win that MFL10, simply based off my Gronkowski pick. Prior to last season, Eric Decker was the WR13 or better in three out of four seasons dating back to 2012. He is currently being drafted 8.02. Danny Woodhead broke his leg in 2014 and came back to be the RB3 in 2015. An early-season ACL tear ended his 2016 and if you are interested in seeing how he will bounce back from that injury in 2017, it will only cost you a 10th-round pick to find out.

Mind Blown – ADP I Cannot Explain

There are some players whose ADP I simply cannot explain, and it really blows my mind in good ways and bad.
- Doug Baldwin, 3.05 – I am comfortable with Baldwin in the second round, and if we consider him finishing as the WR8 last year as a down year for him, I’ll take that. He has a combined 21 touchdowns over his past two seasons.
- Donte Moncrief, 4.11 – this seems like a steep price to pay for a player who had 30 receptions last season. I understand he has a nose for the end zone, but I had very few shares in 2016 and anticipate the same for this season.
- Cam Newton, 8.02 – I buy into Newton’s yo-yo career trajectory. Since 2013, he has finished as the QB5, QB17, QB1, and QB15. While I am typically averse to quarterbacks “early”, the eighth round is most definitely late for Newton. I’ll bet on him finishing as a QB1 this season, and he remains the top goal-line threat in Carolina for me.
- Jeremy Maclin, 9.08 – Maclin is a steal here. In the two seasons prior to his disappointing 2016 season, he was fantasy football’s WR9 and WR15. He is the WR1 on the Kansas City Chiefs and has no business sitting there in the ninth round.
- Matt Forte, 11.05 – Another player I have absolutely no explanation for. Last season, the Jets were a mess and we saw Forte’s career outlier. He was the RB12 or better every year dating back to 2009 before the Jets dumpster fire of a season. You could argue that age has caught up to him, but I don’t buy it. I do buy him in the 11th round, and I will be buying even more if the Jets acquire Jay Cutler.

Late-Round Darts – Target Targets

There are a few players in rounds 15 and beyond who I am looking at that have target potential. Cole Beasley (15.01), Darren Sproles (16.03), Chris Thompson (17.02), and Shane Vereen (18.04) are a few late round guys I have my eyes on. There is one player in particular that intrigues me most down in these rounds and that is Andre Ellington (18.01). The Arizona Cardinals just re-signed him this week and expressed their intentions to use him in more of a receiving-role this season. With Michael Floyd partying his way out of town and John Brown battling the struggles that come with carrying the sickle cell trait, Ellington could be a dark horse in a round where many people are taking a defense. That receiving upside, along with the reckless usage of David Johnson last season, makes Ellington my top late-round dart.

Even though we are just over two weeks into these drafts, we have seen a lot of movement and interesting picks that came along with the rush of free agency. Things will heat up over the next few weeks as more players sign to teams and as more people join MFL10’s, especially with the NFL draft approaching. I will keep you posted throughout the “offseason” with MFL10 observations. In the meantime, don’t forget to follow along my drafts on the Football Diehards homepage.
John Laub

Jen Ryan

Bob Harris

Armando Marsal

Dave Hunter