"The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tent show whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a muddled field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning."
- Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
20 Rounds of Value is not a medicine-show cure-all sold in tents set up on the mudded fields of social media. While it may deliver you a champion straight away, 20 Rounds of Value is a plan for building a foundation for a PPR winner.
Fantasy championships are like a tabletop, and the draft, lineup management, the waiver wire, and trades are the four legs that can support it. Depending on your resources, expertise, and environment, you can build a winner with one well-placed leg or use all four.
As long as the legs are sturdy enough to hold the weight of your trophy and even enough that it doesn't slide off the tabletop, you're good to go. Hell, I bet some of your best meals have been eaten on a wobbly table that needed a wad of coasters shoved under a leg to even things out.
If not, you haven't lived enough life.
20 Rounds of Value's goal is to identify the right players — players you can likely reach for a round or two early, and by year's end, you'll look back at your draft and discover you still got them at a value relative to their production. Likely, half of these players won't work out. However, if 5-7 of these options deliver, you'll have the foundation for a winner that you can supplement with solid team management.
Reaching is considered a bad word in fantasy, but my fantasy drafting style is more like the Tyler Durden Fight Club School of Drafting Guidelines as opposed to the Martha Stewarts of Rate My Team and the rest of the industry. Even if Martha warns the public that ole Tyler's methods don't match the consensus preseason views, she's often facing him in the playoffs as the lower seed to his point-scoring powerhouse.
It's because Marthas play the odds to get the right players and presume you don't have the skill to pick them. However, you know Ty works in a movie theater and grinds the film (he'd share an example of his work, but that scene available on YouTube might force the Martha's to banish him if he linked to it).
If you're looking for tiers filled with options, I'll provide that later this month. If you're seeking a quick-and-dirty way to draft without a ton of brainpower and emotional drama, 20 Rounds of Value is your speed.
If you find the desire to ask me "What About" questions, this plan isn't for you, or you need to quell your neurosis and take the plunge. If players aren't shared here, then they aren't a part of the plan. If you found yourself in a jacked-up draft where none of the players mentioned in a specific round are available, you can either reach a bit more with a player from a later round or of course, deviate temporarily from the plan. I'd advise going with a player later on the list unless a clearly better option has fallen inexplicably down boards.
The number in parenthesis next to each player is his current ADP as of July 26.
Round 1: Ezekiel Elliott (7)
Elliott represents the collective psychology of the average football fan and fantasy analyst. They know in theory that the offensive line is a massive part of making the run game work, but they have no idea in practice how to give it the appropriate weight.
They're continually overrating and underrating — usually underrating — running backs based on their production and overreaching metrics that don't adequately contextualize the runner's skill relative to the skill of the line. Elliott has been a victim of this traveling medicine show for years.
He's still young, healthy, and as skilled of a decision-maker and mover as there is in the NFL. The Cowboys offensive line and quarterback are once again healthy. With this loaded offensive unit that includes an excellent receiving corps, Elliott is not only a great bet for extensive green-zone work (inside the opponent's five), but he's also going to face boxes that can't load up to stop him.
The first round is the only round with the 20 Rounds of Value plan where deviating from the plan is ok. Again, I'm trying to keep this simple for you, which means limiting your choices and giving you a player in Elliott who could easily return to top-three production this year. However, if you believe any of the first 9-10 players by ADP represent safer and/or greater value, be my guest.
Round 2: Antonio Gibson (19) / A.J. Brown (26)
If you want to go strong to the hole running back early or take Hill or Kelce first, Gibson makes sense on so many levels. Most running backs aren't instinctive but skilled options who've learned to execute at the speed of instinct. Last year, Gibson operated far more on instinct than most NFL prospects could ever get away with and succeed.
Gibson performed well without consistent quarterback play and without as well-rounded of a receiving corps as we're expecting to see this year. With Ryan Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel, and a talented defense that's one year wiser, Gibson is a safe pick as a back with a fantasy RB2 baseline and elite RB1 upside due to his receiving prowess.
If you look at the rest of this list and decide that there's enough running back depth available with this plan and feel a greater need for a receiver, Brown is the choice. Based on my projections, Brown could wind up the WR2 or WR3 in your lineups based on the upside of the other targets that 20 Rounds of Value recommends.
Still, Brown is a safe and productive early-round player due to the likelihood of consistent target volume that could increase this year due to more match-up advantages that Julio Jones will create. There's also the big-play upside that Brown has delivered despite playing through injuries last year. Brown is a more versatile option than we've seen in Tennessee, and this looks like the year where the Titans will showcase it.
Round 3: A.J. Brown (26) / J.K. Dobbins (29) / Mike Evans (42)
Brown's big-play upside on the outside should gain in efficiency with Jones and open doors for him to deliver in the slot as a high-volume target. Brown also faces the Jaguars and Texans defenses four times during the year, which is hard to beat in scheduling. Unless Jones proves that Matt Ryan was a far bigger issue contributing to Jones' red-zone production than we have seen, Brown may have as much red-zone upside as Elliott and Gibson.
If you've rolled with Elliott and Gibson, Brown or Evans is probably the best call for the third round. Evans has been a top-12 receiver for the past three years — a rare display of fantasy consistency at this high level for the position — and did it despite playing hurt for much of the year.
Evans' targets, yardage, and receptions may have declined last year, but they are still at 2017's levels as a safe, fantasy-WR2 for most years. This is if you expect a massive regression from 13 touchdowns in 2020. A slight-to-moderate regression makes sense with the weapons Tampa has, but expecting fewer than 7 touchdowns flies against his career average, the nature of his game, and his skills that have not declined on film.
The 20 Rounds of Value Plan has a significant investment in a stack of the Tampa Bay passing game. Evans is going at a significant discount relative to his talent and recent years as a top-10 fantasy receiver.
If you rolled with receivers (Kelce is essentially a receiver) early, Dobbins isn't seen as a shark move when asking most high-stakes industry sharks for their opinions. They fear the presence of Gus Edwards as a proven limiter of Dobbins' upside even when acknowledging Dobbins' talents.
Those who fear the Edwards Factor have Dobbins projected with less than 200 carries. Still, Ingram was the No.8 fantasy back in 2019 with 202 rushing attempts and 26 receptions, thanks to 15 touchdowns from scrimmage.
Edwards is a good player who cracked the top 40 backs in fantasy in PPR scoring last year despite only earning 18 more touches than he did in 2019. The real difference in Edwards' production was scoring. He tripled his average output of rushing touchdowns from two to six.
If you exclude those four touchdowns, Edwards drops to 45th, and if Dobbins earned them, his totals would have jumped from 28th to 21st. This shift in workload is something you can expect to see in Baltimore this year. Dobbins is a do-it-all back whose draft capital and film indicate he'll be expected to take on the primary role in the offense similar to Ingram's top-10 upside at the position from 2019 and not as an equal partner to the powerful but less versatile Edwards.
Jackson's work as a rusher scares off many drafters, but that's a misdirected form of analysis that underrates the value of efficiency that Jackson and this Ravens offense afford its runners. As long as Dobbins is the guy in the backfield the way Ingram was in 2019, betting on a 2021 campaign with double-digit touchdowns and greater efficiency on a touch-by-touch basis isn't as outlandish as feared.
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