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USATSI

Picking at the end of one round and the beginning of another is a mixed bag. On one hand, it's cool to know that you're promised two of your top-13 players (and four of your top 37). And it's fun to take two players at a time. But on the other hand, you have to wait for-eve-rrrr to make your picks and can't reasonably expect anybody to "make it back to you." You're pretty much forced to take the best-available players two at a time.

Knowing I picked 12th and 13th, I made a clear rank list of my 13 favorite players and committed to taking the two highest-ranked guys. And that's what I did when I took Stefon Diggs and Travis Kelce. D'Andre Swift was a consideration but I not only wanted to have seemingly stable players with these choices, but I also wanted to try and take advantage of the running backs that I thought would make it back to me in Round 3/4.

To that end, I was extremely happy. Ezekiel Elliott might wind up being a bust, but I am at least encouraged that the Cowboys still think of him as a feature back and that he's healthy. Maybe I can squeeze one more big year out of him. I paired him with Breece Hall at 37th overall, a rookie running back loaded with upside in a Jets offense that should be better.

This start left me thin on receivers, a trend that continued throughout my draft, but I was still very pleased.

Here's the team from the 12 hole:

1.12: Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills
2.01: Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
3.12: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
4.01: Breece Hall, RB, Jets
5.12: Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
6.01: Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
7.12: Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers
8.01: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Cardinals
9.12: James Cook, RB, Bills
10.01: Skyy Moore, WR, Chiefs
11.12: Brian Robinson, RB, Commanders
12.01: DeVante Parker, WR, Patriots
13.12: Dawson Knox, TE, Bills
14.01: Raheem Mostert, RB, Dolphins
15.12: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins

The way I see it, the price I paid for taking Kelce was having Thielen as my No. 2 receiver to start the season. But I loved landing DeAndre Hopkins at the top of Round 8 as a contingency plan for Thielen in case the Vikings veteran gets hurt or struggles out of the gate. Once Hopkins comes back, he should be at worst a low-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver, just as he was on a per-game basis in PPR last season.

I'm cool with this squad, especially reaping the value of running backs at the 3/4 turn and getting Tom Brady with the last pick of Round 7. But had I committed to a Zero-RB build, my team would have started out like this: 

1.12: Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills
2.01: Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
3.12: Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans
4.01: Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
5.12: Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
6.01: Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles
7.12: Damien Harris, RB, Patriots
8.01: Rashaad Penny, RB, Seahawks
9.12: James Cook, RB, Bills
10.01: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
11.12: Kenny Golladay, WR, Giants
12.01: DeVante Parker, WR, Patriots

I must say, that's not bad for a team that prioritized receptions. The running backs may have led to a season full of bad lineup choices, but I imagine I would have found two to play every week from that group. Getting Rashaad Penny in Round 8 really made me feel good about the group; you might feel otherwise about him.

This does underscore one very key point you should take with you into your draft: Whether you are a fan of Zero RB or not, you should be open to beginning your draft with two non-running backs. I proved there are two clear paths you can take where you can still land very good running back starters at 36th and 37th overall, or you could blow off the position for four rounds and still come away with a nice group to pick from each week.

Favorite pick: Tom Brady

Ho-hum. I spent the 84th pick of our draft on a dude who's averaged north of 25 points per game for two years and is throwing to a crew of FIVE quality pass-catchers (not including Leonard Fournette!) in an offense that favors the pass. I am not sure there's a better bargain pick than Brady once you get to the mid-point of a Fantasy draft. I loved waiting for him to fall into my lap.

Pick I might regret: Breece Hall

Jets running backs have been Fantasy poison for the past decade. Hall is a terrific talent but could be destined to split touches all season and potentially disappoint like many other Jets backs have, including Michael Carter in 2021. It's hard to put his ceiling in the top 12 and might be more of a safe No. 2 guy.

Player who could make or break my team: Ezekiel Elliott

It's a close call between Elliott and Hall, but Zeke is the more polarizing Fantasy player. His metrics make it clear he's been a descending player for a couple of seasons, but perhaps we're weighing his poor 2021 numbers too heavily since he was impacted by a torn PCL in his knee. He is healthy as of this writing and the Cowboys have little choice but to use him, if not run him into the ground. Opportunity is king in Fantasy Football, and Elliott should have plenty of it. If he does better with it this year than last, my team will cruise to the playoffs.