Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): It’s time to wipe the slate clean. Today, all of our draft mistakes are forgiven. Eddie Lacy with the first pick? Never happened. C.J. Anderson in the first round? Erased.
We’re starting a new league from scratch. Let’s assume it’s a 12-team redraft league with standard scoring, the usual amount of position players (one QB, two running backs, two receivers, one tight end) and we’ll even throw in a flex spot for good measure. The draft starts in five minutes. Knowing what we know now, who do you take with the first pick?
For me, it’s a tossup between Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman. If we’re going conservative, I think Bell’s the safer pick. He’s been doing it longer and he has an extremely high floor to work with. Every week is a guaranteed 20-plus touches and 100 all-purpose yards. That’s hard to screw up.
But the case for Freeman is just as compelling. His volume is pretty similar to Bell’s and he’s giving LaDainian Tomlinson a run for his money in the touchdown department. I keep hearing the Maurice Jones-Drew comparisons but MJD never had a stretch like this. Where do you guys stand on this?
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): I think it is Le’Veon. Freeman is on an historic run, and I have little doubt he will remain an RB1 the rest of the season. Arizona debacle aside, Bell has been no slouch since returning from suspension, and he has done much of his damage without any semblance of a passing game backing him up. With Ben Roethlisberger on the way back and Martavis Bryant in the fold, Bell’s best games are likely ahead of him. I doubt we can say the same for Freeman. Both are elite options, but given the choice I will pick the player with the better track record. Give me Bell.
Rich Hribar (@LordReebs): I’m definitely in favor of Bell as well because he’s the complete package at the position. He doesn’t come off of the field, is a fantastic pass catcher and a grinder when he has to be. Freeman’s current stretch has been very special and he’s definitely an RB1 the rest of the way with that super soft schedule. But Atlanta has a 2 to 1 rushing touchdown to passing touchdown ratio right now, which is pretty wild since the NFL average is nearly reversed at 1.7 passing score to rushing score. Eventually Atlanta is going to start throwing for scores again. I also like Ray’s point about Bell’s future improving with the return of Martavis Bryant and the eventual return of Big Ben.
This wasn’t part of the question, but if I had the first pick, I’m not sure I wouldn’t just take DeAndre Hopkins since there would be no chance for me to get an elite receiver in the gap from 1.01 to 2.12 while I could still cobble running back points in a season where after the upper crust is basically filled with specialty backs. That can also be a pro argument for Bell and Freeman, but I believe Hopkins would be in consideration as well based on whatever your preferred team building philosophy is. Hopkins has at least 24 PPR points in five of six games this season, which is one more than Freeman and four more than Bell.
Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat): Definitely think Bell is the pick, even though Freeman has saved my team in two different leagues. Wanted to make the same point Ray did. Bell is averaging 4.5 yards per carry even with Big Ben sidelined. That’s pretty insane. Just imagine how soft the defensive fronts are going to be once Roethlisberger is back.
For No. 3, would anyone take Todd Gurley? The No. 10 pick is looking like he might have an Adrian Peterson-esque run in him. Even more than Bell or Chris Ivory, he’s locked into truly massive workloads. The Rams have zero other options.
Pantuosco: Rich is onto something here with Nuk Hopkins. While I still think I’d take Freeman and Bell ahead of him, Hopkins is certainly in play at No. 3. His volume is absolutely astounding. Hopkins is on pace for 240 targets this year. That’s 35 more than Calvin Johnson had in 2012 when he set the NFL record for receiving yards. He’s also projected for 139 catches, which would be the most since Marvin Harrison set the NFL record with 143 in 2002. This has the makings of an all-time great season. And he’s done it with Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett at quarterback. Can we give this guy the Nobel Prize or something? I’m absolutely incapable of making a FanDuel lineup without Hopkins. Whatever the price, I’ll pay it. It’s like a nervous tic I have.
Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield): I’ve got Martavis Bryant in the WR15-17 range going forward. We all witnessed his immense ceiling last week (6-137-2 on eight targets). Five of Bryant’s eight targets came from Landry Jones and he converted those looks into 4-129-2, including that highlight-reel-worthy 88-yard score.
Ben Roethlisberger‘s return is crucial for the Steelers’ pass attack moving forward, but Martavis’ remaining schedule isn’t immensely difficult. Outside of facing Seattle (Week 12) and Denver (Week 15) there really isn’t an opposing secondary on Pittsburgh’s remaining schedule that is scary. In the opening two games with Roethlisberger healthy, Pittsburgh threw up 64 total points against New England and San Francisco without Bryant and Le’Veon Bell. This offense is primed for an explosion when Big Ben (hopefully) returns in Week 8.
Jeff Brubach (@Jeff_Brubach): I like Bell over Freeman for the top spot among fantasy draft picks as well, and I am fully expecting the Pittsburgh offense to explode when Ben Roethlisberger returns. The other name that popped into my head was Todd Gurley, like Pat mentioned. Gurley’s 30 carries in Week 5 while the Rams trailed Green Bay for the entire afternoon was a great indication of the huge workloads Gurley will be seeing each and every week and we know he is a monster with the ball in his hands.
For Martavis Bryant, I see him as a WR2 for sure and like Le’Veon Bell, he will only benefit from Ben’s return. Bryant has that rare ability to catch just four passes in a game and win an entire fantasy matchup.
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