Fantasy review: 'There's basically zero chance you're gonna like' the results of this five-round dynasty rookie draft

Here's the thing that fantasy experts generally neglect to tell you about dynasty leagues: You're allowed to try to win them right now β€” like, this year

Too often, dynasty managers neglect the current season in favor of a sort of dreamy futurism. We care about some hypothetical multi-year streak of future league championships (which will almost certainly never happen) far more than we care about today's win. But no league defies our attempts to make long-term plans quite like the NFL, so the simplest way to gain an edge in dynasty is to focus entirely on the present.

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I've chosen to lead with this play-for-today message because I'm about to detail the results of a 2020 rookie dynasty draft in which I had no first-round pick, having traded it away last season in a win-now move that didn't work. (I did, however, receive Terry McLaurin on a crazy-cheap contract in the deal, so it wasn't a complete loss.)

There's basically zero chance you're gonna like my draft because I didn't have a selection until No. 18 overall. At that point, everyone is a flier.

Still, I mean ... hey, it's a fantasy draft of some sort. And we're kinda starved for sports content these days. Feel free to rip this thing to pieces in the comments. 

You can find my original post-draft rookie dynasty ranks right here, and they haven't changed substantially. But in this particular league, I do have one glaring need (running back depth) and I'm very much within a championship contention window at the moment. I've got Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Alvin Kamara, D.J. Moore, McLaurin, and George Kittle locked up at good-to-great salaries over multiple years, plus a few additional short-term pieces. I am definitely in go-for-it mode, gunning for this year's trophy, not thinking about 2025. I won this league in 2018 but face-planted last year. If the season ahead actually manages to proceed according to schedule, I'm a contender the prohibitive favorite. Thus, I entered the draft looking to find one or more 2020 contributors. 

Some of you may actually be familiar with this league, La Liga Lebowski, commished by Yahoo and ESPN alum, Chris Harris. This thing has spawned a shocking number of clone leagues. It's a near-perfect dynasty format, with a set of rules arguably more detailed and complex than the NFL's own. We have transition tags, franchise tags, holdouts, taxi squads, contract extensions, a shifting salary cap, and various other quirks. Harris is a gifted writer and analyst, a wonderful human, and an occasionally lucky fantasy player. But his greatest gift is fantasy league design. As a commish, he is unrivaled. This, more than anything, has fed his vast wealth and enabled his nautical lifestyle. 

But enough about Harris. Let's review this rookie draft, with my picks in bold (because they are special):

Round One

1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB

2. CeeDee Lamb, WR

3. Jonathan Taylor, RB

4. D'Andre Swift, RB

5. Jerry Jeudy, WR

6. Justin Jefferson, WR

7. J.K. Dobbins, RB

8. Henry Ruggs, WR

9. Cam Akers, RB

10. Jalen Reagor, WR

11. Tee Higgins, WR

12. Tua Tagovailoa, QB

This is the right group of names for the most part, if not in the precise order I'd rank 'em. Taylor won't typically fall to No. 3 in a rookie draft, for obvious reasons. He's a huge talent, blazing fast (4.39 speed) and he'll rush behind a dominant run-blocking line. If Taylor reaches his ceiling over the course of his rookie contract, he can win a rushing title. 

Still, I don't hate the selection of Lamb at No. 2, because that guy has clear star potential, even in a crowded receiving corps. He was virtually unstoppable last year at OU, catching 62 balls for 1,327 yards (21.4 Y/R) and 14 scores, producing seven 100-yard games (10-171-3 vs. Texas, 4-119 vs. LSU). Just look at this nonsense:

My best-case scenario at Pick No. 18 involved a run on the third-tier RB prospects β€” Vaughn, Moss, Dillon, et al β€” resulting in a long fall for Tee Higgins. But it didn't quite shake out that way. Higgins is basically an A.J. Green replicant, gifted with terrific hands, size (6-foot-4) and wingspan. I was this close to making a pre-draft trade for the No. 11 pick and might have pulled the trigger if I'd felt confident that Higgins would be there. Alas. 

I do not officially endorse Tua over Burrow, just for the record. Burrow's supporting cast in Cincinnati is just unreasonably good. We wouldn't normally expect a quarterback selected first overall to step into a situation as talent-rich as that one. He has a shot at first-year fantasy relevance. Tagovailoa is all kinds of fun β€” inventive, aggressive, hyper-talented β€” but Burrow's near-term setup is simply better. Also: Burrow is kind of a badass

In any case, La Liga is a one-quarterback league, so the position is devalued in our draft. If this was a superflex format, Burrow would have been a top-five player for me, with Tua not far behind. 

Round Two 

13. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB

14. Zack Moss, RB

15. Michael Pittman, WR

16. Anthony McFarland, RB

17. Joe Burrow, QB

18. Denzel Mims, WR

19. Brandon Aiyuk, WR

20. Laviska Shenault, WR

21. K.J. Hamler, WR

22. A.J. Dillon, RB

23. Joshua Kelley, RB

24. Eno Benjamin, RB

Given my team's one glaring need, perhaps I should have just scrapped the pre-draft ranks and selected a running back. I'd been hoping Moss might tumble because he's stepping into a situation in Buffalo in which a pile of goal-line touches are up for grabs. (Frank Gore received 18 carries inside the 10-yard line last season.) 

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But when Moss was off the board, Mims became a relatively easy call. He's widely viewed as a high-ceiling/low-floor prospect in need of refinement, but he's an exceptional athlete, even by NFL standards (4.39 speed, 38.5-inch vertical, 6.66 3-cone). He was a 1,000-yard receiver over multiple collegiate seasons at Baylor, though he did it in a conference not known for defending much of anything. Mims landed on a Jets roster with a desperate need for receiving talent, so he has an obvious route to fantasy value as a rookie. That team can't afford to keep any playmakers on the sidelines. 

Round Three

25. Justin Herbert, QB

26. Antonio Gibson, RB

27. Tyler Johnson, WR

28. Darrynton Evans, RB

29. Bryan Edwards, WR

30. Lynn Bowden, RB

31. Lamical Perine, RB

32. Devin Duvernay, WR

33. Van Jefferson, WR

34. Chase Claypool, WR

35. Quintez Cephus, WR

36. Jalen Hurts, QB

It kinda crushed me not to land Gibson. I'd already typed his name into the chat window in which we were drafting, in fact. (A noob mistake. No surer way to doom a pick.) Gibson is essentially a combo RB/WR, likely to line up all over the formation, eligible at running back. He can share the field with Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson, so his playing time in Washington doesn't depend on another player's health. Ron Rivera has compared Gibson's versatility to Christian McCaffrey's, which is at once ridiculous and promising. I'm interested. 

Anyway, I didn't get him. So I selected my favorite player remaining on the board, despite the fact that he has no clear path to targets in his first pro season. Johnson was an irresistible force at Minnesota, catching 164 balls for 2,487 yards and 25 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He pretty much single-handedly beat Auburn in his final collegiate game, catching 12 passes for 204 yards and two spikes, including this gem:

As a fan of a competing Big Ten program, I'm happy to see him out of the conference and available for fantasy drafting. He's not a burner, but there's no question he can play. Of course, he's buried on the receiving depth chart in Tampa Bay, so he's unlikely to help us in the season ahead. 

Bowden, like Gibson, is a gadgety hybrid player who carries RB eligibility for fantasy purposes. In his final season at Kentucky, he carried the ball 185 times for 1,468 yards (7.9 YPC), caught 30 balls for 348 yards, and completed 35 passes for 403. He scored 14 touchdowns and threw for three. He was a pretty fair kick returner, too. 

So, he's fun. Coach Gruden can surely find a few interesting ways to use Bowden's loaded skill-set. Enjoy some highlights:

Round Four

37. Adam Trautman, TE

38. DeeJay Dallas, RB

39. Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR

40. Cole Kmet, TE

41. Devin Asiasi, TE

42. K.J. Hill, WR

43. Gabriel Davis, WR

44. Jordan Love, QB

45. Michael Warren, RB

46. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE

47. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR

48. Collin Johnson, WR

Realistically, there's no clear path for any player selected in this round to make a fantasy splash in 2020, except via injury to a well-established starter. Appropriately, the tight ends all fell outside the top-35 picks. It's not a position at which we expect rookies to thrive. Trautman was monstrously productive at the FCS level, however, and could get interesting for New Orleans as early as 2021. 

None of the top tight ends fell to Pick No. 42, so I snagged another personal favorite in Hill, the all-time receptions leader at Ohio State (201). He profiles strictly as a chain-moving slot receiver, potentially useful down the road as a deep league PPR option. Nothing too exciting, really. But at this late stage in a rookie draft, we're looking for anyone who might eventually become playable. Hill won't make much noise for the Chargers in 2020, in all likelihood. 

I'd had Eagles UDFA Michael Warren in mind as a final-round pick, so his selection at No. 45 was a letdown. He gained nearly 3,000 scrimmage yards at Cincinnati over the past two seasons, finding the end-zone 36 times. He's a 220-pound bruiser tied to a team with a wide-open backfield depth chart behind Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Stylistically, he seems like an ideal complement to Sanders. 

Round Five

49. John Hightower, WR

50. Joe Reed, WR

51. Isaiah Coulter, WR

52. Darnell Mooney, WR

53. James Proche, WR

54. Jason Huntley, RB

55. Salvon Ahmed, RB

56. Dalton Keene, TE

57. Jacob Eason, QB

58. Isaiah Hodgins, WR

59. Harrison Bryant, TE

60. Ty'son Williams, RB

These players are pure dart-throws, most of them battling to simply make rosters in real-life. Huntley is a smallish back who produced huge numbers in his final year at New Mexico State (1,090 rush, 7.1 YPC) and caught at least 40 balls in back-to-back seasons. But he was taken by Detroit in the fifth round of a draft in which the team also selected a potential future centerpiece back, D'Andre Swift. So I am not exactly counting on Huntley making a meaningful fantasy contribution at any point.

But hey, maybe he'll get a ring as a taxi squad member for the 2020 La Liga champs. When you have Mahomes, you clearly have hope. 

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