Who's #1? Making a Case for the First Overall Pick in Re-draft Leagues

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Tonight's contest is a Fatal Four Way match and it is for the right to be selected number one in 2017 fantasy football drafts. This match will be contested under PPR rules and will be no disqualification!

Last year's top consensus pick is back to stake a claim for a repeat, but he'll have stiff competition from a trio of running backs this year.

As always, league rules and format matter, but for the majority of re-draft leagues, these are the players you need to consider. Without further ado, let's get this show underway!

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Meet Our Contestants

Le'Veon Bell (RB, PIT)

This will be Bell's fifth professional season and his third time in contention for the top overall pick. Bell is coming off his best year with weekly averages of 105.7 rushing yards and 51.3 receiving yards. He was the best non QB in fantasy football on a per game basis. If you hopped out of your Delorean and told me you saw the 2017 NFL season and that Le'Veon Bell played 16 games, this discussion would end as quickly as it began - Bell would be awarded the title without even having the match. Unbelievably, with all the advancements in science and technology, somehow time travel still eludes us. Therefore, we must look to the past in order to predict the future.

Bell entered the league in 2013, but has only once, in 2014, played all 16 games. When talking about the first player drafted, you know all four contenders are going to have strong cases, so we have to find a way to differentiate. There's no doubting Bell's production on the field. The knocks against him are largely off the field.

Bell's career got off to a delayed start because of a preseason foot injury in 2013. In 2015, he sat out the first two games of the season due to a violation of the substance abuse policy. He then tore his MCL and PCL after playing just six games. In 2016, he again sat out the start of the season because of another substance abuse policy violation. Playing for a top offense and being an elite producer whenever on the field, there is no reason to doubt his production, but through four years, we have four instances of Bell missing games due to injury or suspension. That may be enough to keep him off the throne.

 

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, DAL)

Since I'm a Cowboys fan, Elliott should definitely be the first overall pick because the Cowboys are great and all their players are great. No? You don't like that logic? Alright, I'll be honest here - I hated the Elliott pick when the Cowboys made it. I even wrote an article about it. But while I hated the selection, I acknowledged the greatness Elliott could achieve behind what will likely go down as one of the best offensive lines in history (the combination of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin).

The rookie somehow lived up to the hype, finishing just shy of 2,000 total yards (1631 rushing, 363 receiving). If we assume he is only going to improve as he matures, then his ceiling is almost limitless. But much like the pill Bradley Cooper's character was taking to gain his abilities, Elliott's "pill" is the Cowboys offensive line. While I don't foresee the line falling off any time soon, it did lose Ronald Leary and Doug Free without really replacing them. Zeke is the least talented of the four participants in this match (which is not to say he's untalented - he's just got some stiff competition here) and even the slightest decrease in quality of circumstances can be enough to knock a guy off the ladder that was already on the outside looking in. Elliott's ceiling is there. He is tied to an explosive offense and the reports that he will be more involved in the passing game only help, but he's likely going to come up a little short in the battle for the top spot.

 

David Johnson (RB, ARI)

If you take David Johnson's receiving stats alone, he would have finished as a mid-WR3 last season. The man plays running back. He touched the ball a whopping 373 times last year (293 on the ground, 80 in the air). He totaled over 2,000 all purpose yards (and has stated he wants to be a 1,000-1,000 player this season). He is built like a freight train. Yes, he sprained his MCL in a meaningless week 17 game last year that looked far worse than it ended up being, but other than that, Johson has never really been injured. He's Le'Veon Bell with a weaker supporting cast, but without any of the off-the-field concerns or injury risks.

No player was more consistent than DJ in 2016. He averaged over 20 fantasy points per game, posting double-digit totals in every single week. He is locked into a three-down role with arguably the weakest backups in the league. While Bell has competition for targets in Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant and Elliott shares a field with Dez Bryant (and he's also nowhere near the pass catcher Bell and DJ are), Johnson is the second best wide receiver on his team. The only guy ahead of him is 34 year old Larry Fitzgerald. Both Johnson and Bell give you a WR3 and an RB1, but DJ comes with lower risk. That gives him the ever so slight edge over Bell.

 

Antonio Brown (WR, PIT)

If David Johnson is the king of the running backs, the only other player that could potentially top him has to be a wide receiver. The lone receiver in this contest and the consensus top pick from a year ago stakes his claim to the throne once again. Antonio Brown's PPR finishes at WR since 2013: 2, 1, 1, 1. In 2014 and 2015, he outscored every running back as well. In 2016, the only players to outscore him were the other three on this list. With AB, you are getting the epitome of consistency. The man has caught over 100 balls for four straight seasons. He's just two years removed from a 193 target, 136 catch season. He is the closest thing to Jerry Rice we've ever seen. If you take Brown first overall, no one is going to fault you.

The problem with taking Brown at the top spot has nothing to do with Brown himself. At the end of the day, despite what 2015 and Zero-RB advocates may have fooled you into thinking, running backs still run fantasy football. Having an elite, consistent producer at the running back position trumps the same at wide receiver. In 2015, receivers dominated like no other year. In fact, it was the only year in the past 10 where the average top-10 running back outscored the average top-10 receiver. It was an anomaly by all accounts. The fact remains that it is easier to find receivers later in the draft than running backs. You can't replace the elite level production that the "big three" RBs provide.

 

The Verdict

It goes without saying that you can't go wrong with any of these guys. No one in your league is going to lambaste you for taking Elliott, Bell, or Brown. But the man scoring the pinfall in this match is David Johnson. With DJ, you get a running back with the elite talent, great situation, and consistency, and you don't get any of the excess baggage. If I am lucky enough to pick #1 in any of my leagues, I'm going with David Johnson and you should too.