MFL10s are my favorite way to pass the time during the doldrums of the offseason, not because I think I'm going to clean up in the cash department, but because each day brings a new slant on certain players due to rumors, free agent signings, so forth and so on. So of course, you can pick a player who ends up losing playing time due to a move, but that's the risk and the fun of these super-early best-ball leagues. And you don't have to even look at them again until the end of the season, so if the team sucks, you can pretend you never even drafted it!
They also give you a way to keep on top of all the moves and analysis, that in the end will have you prepared for your big draft and trade leagues once they start up again in the fall. So with all that, here is my first MFL10 of the season. I am in the nine hole.
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
Johnson was the no-doubt fantasy MVP of last season, so there's going to be a strong urge to grab him first in drafts this year. I'm good with that, but it's also not a slam-dunk for me. The reason it isn't, is Carson Palmer, who played some awful football last year. He also played some decent football as well, but I see his trajectory falling off a cliff at some point, and that won't be good for Johnson's touchdown production. He's the no-doubt No. 2 pick for me this year, but I do worry about the touchdown opportunities.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
Elliott might be the safest pick of fantasy drafts this season, but his lack of receptions will hurt his overall upside, whereas a player like David Johnson or Le'Veon Bell have that extra boost, especially in PPR leagues, which MFL10s are. The yardage and touchdowns will be there, but I like that 80-reception upside from the other two.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Bell is my No. 1 pick for this season. It's a tough call between him and David Johnson, but Bell averaged 20.2 fantasy points a game compared to David Johnson's 20.7, while Johnson averaged 1.25 touchdowns to Bell's .75. Touchdowns are hard to predict, but I expect Johnson's numbers to fall a bit, while Bell's should stay the same, plus Bell averaged more receptions and yards per game. We are, of course, comparing an amazing apple to another amazing apple, but I like Bell's upside slightly more.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
Brown goes off as the first wide receiver and last year he was the first player off the board for most drafters. His demotion was due to a "down" year for him and really all wide receivers, while the running backs asserted themselves again. I could easily be persuaded by a wide receiver being worth the No. 1-overall pick again, but those shiny running back stats from last year sure are tantalizing. We knew the running backs had the upside to outplay wide receivers in fantasy, but they just weren't getting the job done, while wide receivers were and did it consistently. Johnson and Bell are special players and may just be the exception to the rule.
Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Jones has the most upside of any wide receiver going in the game, but he also can't stay on the field long enough to quite hit the peaks we know he has in him. Thankfully, Jones stays on the field enough to put up top numbers, which allows us to feel okay about drafting him in the hopes that he finally has that monster year.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants
OBJ is currently my No. 1 wide receiver this season, with Antonio Brown an extremely close second. Beckham Jr. gets Brandon Marshall as his No. 2 receiver, which will only help him, as Beckham doesn't need 12 targets a game to put up huge numbers. Marshall and Sterling Shepard will give Beckham the cover he needs to break big plays on a consistent basis this season. My biggest concern for him will be Eli Manning, who did not show his good side much last season. I'll take that risk when dealing with OBJ's talent in an up-tempo offense.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Green is a player I like a lot for a good bounce-back season. A healthy Tyler Eifert and more diverse offense should put Green back into the elite ranks of fantasy receivers. His upside isn't like the others in this tier, but he's a solid pick with a long-term healthy resume.
Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
Evans is one of my favorite picks this year based on targets alone. Even if the Bucs sign DeSean Jackson, Evans will remain a top target, as Jackson would work mostly as a deep threat, opening up things for Evans, while helping him get closer to the red zone, where he will be the preferred target over Jackson. Evans is still young and continues to get better, along with Jameis Winston, and as long as Evans is among the league leaders in targets, he'll be a top play each week.
**Jordan Howard, RB, Bears**
I chose Howard here, but it was not an easy decision. Right now, I don't feel like there is a hierarchy at this point in the first round that I must follow, so I decided to go with a player I feel could continue to get better, which would make him an elite fantasy play. Howard was great last season. Once he started getting to start in Week 3, he averaged 113 yards and .53 touchdowns per game - but still just 18 carries per game. I see that number rising this year and him also improving in the receiving game. Howard averaged 5.1 yards per carry on a team that had very little offense to speak of. The Bears will focus on the run game this year, and Jordan has the ability to be a workhorse in this league.
Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
Bryant was high on my list as well for pick No. 9, but I was itching for Howard, as I'm trumpeting his ability this season. I also figured Bryant would go a bit later, as his number have been down due to injuries the last two seasons. But the good news is, he looked great with Dak Prescott throwing him the ball, and he will still be the best target on the team by a large margin.
Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders
Will this be the year Cooper breaks out as the true No. 1 receiver we know he can be? I think maybe, but I'm also not going to bet a first-round pick on it. Cooper continued to lose red-zone looks to Michael Crabtree last season, and even though I think Cooper will start to win those, I just can't bet on it happening in an avalanche. The good news is that Derek Carr continues to make strides and is poised for a top season, which would elevate Cooper either way.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
I'm a big Gordon fan and am still high on him this season, but he did have quite a bit of touchdown luck. Thankfully he showed that he wasn't just a touchdown dependent back as the season went on and he helped his fantasy cause with 419 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. He still averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and it is hard to count on touchdown numbers, but the Chargers not re-signing Danny Woodhead is a big boon to Gordon's receiving numbers, so I'm still okay with Gordon this early, but would rather get him in the second round if possible.