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Fantasy Football: How to pick the perfect draft

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon runs against the Bears during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in San Diego. | Denis Poroy/AP

Every fantasy owner’s challenge is to secure the best value in each round, methodically building a roster that will soar from Week 1, withstand injuries and peak during the fantasy postseason.

With that lofty goal in mind, I’ve analyzed the average draft position (ADP) of each player from multiple fantasy sites to determine the best pick in each round — resulting in my oft-imitated, always controversial Perfect Draft.

As always, we start with a few assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers and one tight end, flex, kicker and team defense. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a snake format. Third, because all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2017 Perfect Draft, we select . . .

Round 1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers. Let me be crystal-clear: If you can nab David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell, do it. After those two, it’s debatable. But if you wait until the middle of the second round to take an RB, you’ll need to settle for 10 games from Ezekiel Elliott or 2016 Bust of the Year Todd Gurley. Gordon gets the edge over LeSean McCoy thanks to his younger legs and better offense.

Round 2. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints. Going RB in Round 1 means we must nab the best available receiver here. As much as I’d love to snag Rob Gronkowski, doing so would severely damage our WR corps. You can never go wrong drafting Drew Brees’ favorite target. Dez Bryant is another worthy pick.

Round 3. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders. I understand the RB Formerly Known as Beast Mode is a significant risk coming back from a year out of the game. Then again, he’s rested, virtually unchallenged for the workhorse job and ensconced on arguably the most exciting young offense in the league. I’ll bet he averages 80 yards and a TD per game. Not bad for an RB2.

Round 4. Davante Adams, WR, Packers. I like owning key pieces of high-octane offenses, and Adams is coming off a banner year as Aaron Rodgers’ second-favorite target.

Round 5. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers. There are only three surefire elite TEs — Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and Olsen. Olsen is available here and gives us Cam Newton’s go-to receiver. I’ll pass on Jordan Reed and his injury woes.

Round 6. C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos. If Kareem Hunt slides to this round, take the gamble. Any earlier is too rich for the untested rookie. Anderson will carry the load for his run-centric offense, though his injury history is a concern. Then again, that’s why he’s our RB3.

Round 7. Derek Carr, QB, Raiders. With loads of weapons and three years as a starter under his belt, Carr is ready to make the leap to elite status. For the first time I can remember, I’m banking on big things from the Raiders.

Round 8. Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins. Two years ago, I said Johnson was “Most Likely to Succeed” in 2016. Nailed it. Last year, I gave the title to Crowder. While everyone else gushes over (and overpays for) Terrelle Pryor, I’ll take the guy with whom Kirk Cousins already has a great rapport.

Round 9. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys. It’s easy to forget that Prescott finished his rookie season as the sixth-best QB in Fantasy-land. While a sophomore slump is entirely possible, I foresee continued progression.

Round 10. Tyrell Williams, WR, Chargers. Williams is a solid sleeper pick with loads of upside as one of Philip Rivers’ go-to receivers. His value will skyrocket once Keenan Allen suffers his inevitable next injury.

Round 11. Texans defense/special teams. Fantasy defenses are notoriously difficult to predict, but Houston’s squad is loaded and offers great value here.

Round 12. Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots. He’s the biggest beneficiary of Julian Edelman’s season-ending injury. Hogan demonstrated a strong rapport with Tom Brady last season, and he is well-positioned to prosper in the shadow of Brandin Cooks and Gronkowski.

Round 13. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Buccaneers. He’ll start the first three games while Doug Martin serves his suspension. If Rodgers performs well in Tampa Bay’s up-and-coming offense, he could keep the job or, at worst, earn a role in a shared backfield.

Round 14. Taylor Gabriel, WR, Falcons. We need a piece of Atlanta’s offense, and Gabriel should play a meaningful role. He showed last season he can exploit all the attention paid to Julio Jones. Prefer a backup TE? Take Austin Hooper or O.J. Howard.

Round 15. Darren Sproles, RB, Eagles. We need one more rusher, and Sproles offers significant upside — especially in PPR leagues. LeGarrette Blount is off to a shaky start in Philly, meaning Sproles could be even busier than usual. Other fliers worth considering: D’Onta Foreman and Marlon Mack.

Round 16. Cole Beasley, WR, Cowboys. Dak, Zeke and Dez get all the publicity, but Beasley moves the chains. He should be especially busy while Elliott serves his suspension.

Round 17. Mason Crosby, K, Packers. Lots of choices here. The key point is to wait on your kicker until the last round, then grab a reliable veteran playing for a high-octane offense.

There you have it: a team with firepower at every position, bench depth with substantial upside and no bye-week dilemmas.

Now, go forth and make your draft perfect.

Follow Ladd Biro at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com) and on Twitter @ladd_biro.

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