We set the stage for our own March Bracket to figure out which NFL division could create the best fantasy roster. Check out the primer here.
The stage has been set. Now it’s team for these super-fake teams to go to battle.
I created a formula based on fantasy PPG from 2017 (or 2016 if the player was injured in 2017) and early 2018 ranks to give each player a “score.” We’ll now pit the teams head-to-head for the tournament to see which fantasy team comes out on top.
A few players are pending free agents, but they were considered a part of their 2017 team for this exercise.
Round 1 matchups
AFC East vs. AFC South
It’s the old man (Brady) versus the new blood (Watson) for the first matchup of the tournament.
Yeah, I know, Jarvis Landry is now on the Browns. But these teams were set early Friday, and he wasn’t traded to Cleveland until that afternoon. So he’s sticking with the AFC East for this.
|AFC East||vs.||AFC South|
|QB||Tom Brady||QB||Deshaun Watson|
|RB1||LeSean McCoy||RB1||Leonard Fournette|
|RB2||Kenyan Drake||RB2||Derrick Henry|
|WR1||Brandin Cooks||WR1||DeAndre Hopkins|
|WR2||Jarvis Landry||WR2||T.Y. Hilton|
|TE||Rob Gronkowski||TE||Delanie Walker|
|FLEX||Dion Lewis||FLEX||Allen Robinson|
|K||Stephen Gostkowski||K||Ryan Succop|
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady vs. Deshaun Watson
Advantage: Brady by +0.48 points.
This one is close. Brady is the No. 3-ranked quarterback, but Watsons is No. 7. Additionally, Watson scored an absurd 25 fantasy PPG last year, which buoyed his production for this make-believe game of make believe.
Running backs: LeSean McCoy and Kenyan Drake vs. Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry
Advantage: Fournette and Henry by +6.60 points.
Fournette is a few ranks ahead of McCoy, and Henry is a few spots ahead of Drake.
Wide receivers: Brandin Cooks and Jarvis Landry vs. DeAndre Hopkins and T.Y. Hilton
Advantage: Hopkins and Hilton by +12.8 points.
Hopkins is the No. 2-ranked wideout heading into 2017, giving the AFC South tandem a big lead in this category.
Tight ends: Rob Gronkowski vs. Delanie Walker
Advantage: Gronkowski by +8.64 points
Walker is good, but Gronk is the best.
Flex: Dion Lewis vs. Allen Robinson
Advantage: Lewis by +3.24 points
Oddly enough, both “Flex” players for these teams might not even be on these teams in 2018.
K: Stephen Gostkowski vs. Ryan Succop
Advantage: Gostkowski by +6.69 points
DST: Patriots vs. Jaguars
Advantage: Jaguars by +16.38 points
Final result: AFC South advances
The AFC South beat the AFC East by 16.74 points. (We can’t tell you the actual total points scored by each team, otherwise you’ll know the winner of the whole tournament already…)
Much like in real life, the Jaguars defense carried the team here.
AFC North vs. AFC West
|AFC North||vs.||AFC West|
|QB||Ben Roethlisberger||QB||Philip Rivers|
|RB1||Le'Veon Bell||RB1||Kareem Hunt|
|RB2||Joe Mixon||RB2||Melvin Gordon|
|WR1||Antonio Brown||WR1||Keenan Allen|
|WR2||A.J. Green||WR2||Tyreek Hill|
|TE||Tyler Eifert||TE||Travis Kelce|
|FLEX||Josh Gordon||FLEX||Amari Cooper|
|K||Justin Tucker||K||Harrison Butker|
Quarterbacks: Ben Roethlisberger vs. Philip Rivers
Advantage: Roethlisberger by +3.34
Both quarterbacks rank outside the top 10 leading into 2018, but Big Ben sneaks ahead.
Running backs: Le’Veon Bell and Joe Mixon vs. Kareem Hunt and Melvin Gordon
Advantage: Hunt and Gordon by +6.06
Bell is the best, but Mixon brings down the average hard when compared to Hunt and Gordon, who are both top-10 fantasy running backs.
Wide receivers: Antonio Brown and A.J. Green vs. Keenan Allen and Tyreek Hill
Advantage: Brown and Green by +8.60
It’s going to be hard to beat the combo of Brown and Green.
Tight Ends: Tyler Eifert vs. Travis Kelce
Advantage: Kelce by +16.63
This one is a blowout.
Flex: Josh Gordon vs. Amari Cooper
Advantage: Cooper by +0.82
In the Flex slot for this matchup, we have two wideouts who have never quite lived up to expectations. Cooper gets the slight nod.
K: Justin Tucker vs. Harrison Butker
Advantage: Butker by +3.62
This one might come as a surprise given Tucker’s long track record as a great fantasy kicker, but when mixing 2017 production with 2018 outlook, Butker gets the win.
DST: Ravens vs. Chargers
Advantage: Ravens by +3.33
Both defenses were top-five units last year, but the Ravens win this head-to-head battle.
Final result: AFC West advances
The AFC West beat the AFC North by 11.86 points. Travis Kelce set the AFC West up for success in this battle with a huge positional advantage.
NFC South vs. NFC West
|NFC South||vs.||NFC West|
|QB||Cam Newton||QB||Russell Wilson|
|RB1||Alvin Kamara||RB1||Todd Gurley II|
|RB2||Mark Ingram||RB2||David Johnson|
|WR1||Michael Thomas||WR1||Doug Baldwin|
|WR2||Julio Jones||WR2||Larry Fitzgerald|
|TE||Greg Olsen||TE||Jimmy Graham|
|FLEX||Mike Evans||FLEX||Carlos Hyde|
|K||Matt Bryant||K||Greg Zuerlein|
Quarterbacks: Cam Newton vs. Russell Wilson
Advantage: Wilson by +4.72
Both players are fantasy studs, but Wilson’s dominant 2017 gives him a leg up.
Running backs: Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram vs. Todd Gurley and David Johnson
Advantage: Gurley and Johnson by +11.89
Kamara and Ingram are a sweet duo, but they ran into a buzz saw in Round 1 against Gurley and Johnson.
Wide receivers: Michael Thomas and Julio Jones vs. Doug Baldwin and Larry Fitzgerald
Advantage: Thomas and Jones by +23.14
If running back is where the NFC West gets their positional advantage, then wideout is where the NFC South gets theirs. Both Thomas and Jones are top-five fantasy wideouts.
Tight ends: Greg Olsen vs. Jimmy Graham
Advantage: Graham by +1.69
This is a close one, but the nod goes to Graham, who may not even be with Seattle in 2018.
Flex: Mike Evans vs. Carlos Hyde
Advantage: Evans by +10.41
This is a one-sided flex showdown.
K: Matt Bryant vs. Greg Zuerlein
Advantage: Zuerlein by +6.07
Bryant is great. Greg the Leg is arguably the best.
DST: Saints vs. Rams
Advantage: Rams by +2.36
This one is closer than you’d expect, but the Rams defense does give the NFC West a slight edge at this position in this matchup.
Final result: NFC South advances
The NFC South beat the NFC West by 6.80 points. Their dominant wideout duo and flex advantage were enough to seal the win.
NFC East vs. NFC North
|NFC East||vs.||NFC North|
|QB||Carson Wentz||QB||Aaron Rodgers|
|RB1||Ezekiel Elliott||RB1||Dalvin Cook|
|RB2||Jay Ajayi||RB2||Jordan Howard|
|WR1||Odell Beckham Jr.||WR1||Davante Adams|
|WR2||Alshon Jeffery||WR2||Adam Thielen|
|TE||Zach Ertz||TE||Kyle Rudolph|
|FLEX||Dez Bryant||FLEX||Stefon Diggs|
|K||Jake Elliott||K||Matt Prater|
Quarterbacks: Carson Wentz vs. Aaron Rodgers
Advantage: Rodgers by +1.58
Rodgers still gets the nod over the rising Wentz.
Running backs: Ezekiel Elliott and Jay Ajayi vs. Dalvin Cook and Jordan Howard
Advantage: Elliott and Ajayi by +2.74
Elliott’s status as a true elite is enough to carry the squad.
Wide Receivers: Odell Beckham Jr. and Alshon Jeffery vs. Davante Adams and Adam Thielen
Advantage: OBJ and Jeffery by +3.45
The NFC North’s Adam(s) family may be more balanced, but OBJ’s superstardom lifts the NFC East’s unit higher. It’s nearly identical to how Elliott carried the running backs for this team.
Tight ends: Zach Ertz vs. Kyle Rudolph
Advantage: Ertz by +8.73
Ertz emerged as a truly elite fantasy tight end in 2017.
Flex: Dez Bryant vs. Stefon Diggs
Advantage: Diggs by +5.12
People are always a little too high on Bryant. The general feeling is that people are too low on Diggs, too.
K: Jake Elliott vs. Matt Prater
Neither Prater nor Elliott separated from each other for this project.
DST: Eagles vs. Lions
Advantage: Lions by +2.30
Both DST units are good, but the Lions eek out a narrow head-to-head win.
Final result: NFC East advances
Led by OBJ, Ertz, and Zeke, the NFC East beat the NFC North by 5.92 points.
The Final Four is set
With the first round now in the books, four teams advance and four go home. Here are the final two matchups featuring the “Final 4” teams.
Ertz and Co.
Ain't No-la ‘Back Girl
|QB||Carson Wentz||QB||Cam Newton|
|RB1||Ezekiel Elliott||RB1||Alvin Kamara|
|RB2||Jay Ajayi||RB2||Mark Ingram|
|WR1||Odell Beckham Jr.||WR1||Michael Thomas|
|WR2||Alshon Jeffery||WR2||Julio Jones|
|TE||Zach Ertz||TE||Greg Olsen|
|FLEX||Dez Bryant||FLEX||Mike Evans|
|K||Jake Elliott||K||Matt Bryant|
Jalen Ramsey's squad
Keenan & Kelce
|QB||Deshaun Watson||QB||Philip Rivers|
|RB1||Leonard Fournette||RB1||Kareem Hunt|
|RB2||Derrick Henry||RB2||Melvin Gordon|
|WR1||DeAndre Hopkins||WR1||Keenan Allen|
|WR2||T.Y. Hilton||WR2||Tyreek Hill|
|TE||Delanie Walker||TE||Travis Kelce|
|FLEX||Allen Robinson||FLEX||Amari Cooper|
|K||Ryan Succop||K||Harrison Butker|
Check in on Sunday to see how the Final Four — and Championship Game — play out.