It’s the first week of August, which means it’s about that time. This is the seventh annual installment of the Most Fun Fantasy Team, and it’s safe to say this year feels a little different. As training camps get rolling, questions continue to swirl about whether this NFL season can safely happen. We’ll have plenty of time to consider and address those questions in the coming weeks. For now, though, let’s operate as though the NFL—and fantasy football—will be part of our lives this fall.
The goal of this exercise is to remind everyone (myself included) that above all else, fantasy football is supposed to be fun. With so much time, energy, and content devoted to finding ways to mine value and build the most efficient fantasy roster possible, it’s easy to forget that the point is to make Sundays more enjoyable. With that in mind, I tried to put together the most fun fantasy team that you can build with a standard auction budget. This group is designed to maximize your experience every week. You won’t find any volume-dependent compilers or boring yet efficient quarterbacks here. This team was built for excitement.
As in years past, I built this team using a traditional $200 budget and the current ADP auction values from Fantasy Pros. I’m going off a standard scoring model, not PPR, because we don’t reward 2-yard receptions here. Just a reminder: I can’t promise you that this is the smartest way to assemble your team, but I can promise that if you grab most of these guys, your Sundays will never be boring.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs: $25
I don’t think this one requires much explanation. Mahomes is the best player in football, and he’s also the most exciting. That combination isn’t always a given. Quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Drew Brees have been ruthlessly efficient throughout their careers, but people aren’t tuning in to Sunday Night Football just to see what ridiculous throw they’re going to make next. Anything is on the table with Mahomes, and that’s what makes him such a thrilling poster boy for the modern NFL. If you made the mistake of going to the bathroom during a Chiefs drive, and a buddy said you missed Mahomes throwing a 50-yard touchdown with his left hand, you’d probably be inclined to believe him. Fans of every quarterback-starved franchise are watching what’s happening in Kansas City right now and dripping with jealousy. And if you don’t cheer for the Chiefs, at least you could root for Mahomes as your fantasy QB every Sunday.
Nick Chubb, RB, Browns: $40
Finding fun running backs can be a challenge in fantasy football. Volume is king for fantasy backs, which means the most valuable guys are the ones who get the most touches—not necessarily the ones who do the most with them. There are legitimate concerns about what Chubb’s workload will be this fall, but no matter how many carries he gets, you can still expect plenty of fireworks.
For my money, Chubb is the best pure runner in the NFL. Among qualified backs last season, he finished third in yards after contact per attempt (3.8) and second in Next Gen Stats’ new rushing yards over expectation metric. No other back has Chubb’s combination of vision, burst, and balance. On his best runs, Chubb can shred multiple arm tackles and step over a defender like he’s Allen Iverson shaming Ty Lue—all in one motion. Add to that some home run speed that’s rarely seen in 227-pound backs. On his 88-yard touchdown run against the Ravens last September, Chubb traveled 21.95 mph—the second-fastest speed that any player reached on a rushing touchdown last season. And we’re talking about a guy whose best physical comps are linebackers drafted in the top 15. There just aren’t many athletes, past or present, like Nick Chubb.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Cardinals: $37
An often overlooked part of building a fantasy roster is how it affects which offenses you’ll be tuned to every Sunday. David Montgomery is a popular post-hype fantasy sleeper this season, but drafting Montgomery means some long afternoons watching the Bears offense. And no one wants that. On the flip side, the new-look Cardinals are a team everyone should want to watch this season, and drafting Kenyan Drake is both a smart and an economical way to invest in Arizona’s offense. Keeping an eye on Drake also means catching plenty of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins connections without forking over the money it would take to land either of those guys.
Getting traded to the Cardinals last October may have altered the entire trajectory of Drake’s career. An afterthought in Miami’s cluttered, rotating backfield, Drake turned into one of the most efficient backs in football with Arizona. He averaged 0.68 rushing yards over expectation during his eight-game stint with the Cardinals, which extrapolated over an entire season would have ranked fifth in the NFL. And Drake faced eight or more defenders in the box on just 8.8 percent of his carries—the fifth-lowest mark in the league. The makeup of the Cardinals offense gives Drake the running room to finally show off that 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed that made him a star at Alabama.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: $31
For those looking to maximize their entertainment, stockpiling big-play receivers is the way to go. Pass on the slot guy who’s going to catch 10 passes for 74 yards each week and go for the wideouts who show up on RedZone with out-of-the-blue 80-yard touchdowns. No receiver better embodies that spirit than Golladay. The Lions wideout finished sixth in the NFL last season with an average of 15.4 air yards per target. During Matthew Stafford’s eight starts, no other receiver in the league saw more targets of 20-plus air yards than Golladay (22).
The Lions—yes, those Lions—have quietly turned into one of the most aggressive, exciting offenses in football, and that should continue this season. Along with all those bombs down the field, Golladay was also one of the most dominant receivers in the league last season in contested-catch situations. Golladay hauled in 26 contested catches, which led the NFL, and his 63.4 percent success rate in those situations was the fourth-best mark in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington: $19
There are few better feelings in fantasy than snagging a player just as he’s about to break out, and you don’t want to miss the boat on McLaurin. As a rookie last season, he tallied 919 receiving yards and seven touchdowns while showing everything you’d want to see in a young receiver. McLaurin—who ran a 4.35 at last year’s combine—finished 14th in the NFL in yards on deep receptions (366) and 16th in air yards per target (14.1). Along with being a true deep threat, he’s also a nuanced route runner for a second-year guy who didn’t get a ton of work in college. To top it all off, McLaurin finished fifth in contested catch percentage, behind guys like Golladay, Michael Thomas, and Chris Godwin. Skeptics are going to point out that I just said you should try to grab guys on entertaining offenses, but even if the rest of Washington’s unit struggles, McLaurin will get enough work for his talent to shine through. He’s a star in the making, and identifying those guys just before your buddies do always feels sweet.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills: $15
Last season, Diggs finished 10th in the league in average air yards per target (14.9) and first in yards on deep receptions (635). If you’re sensing a theme here, well done. Diggs is one of the most dynamic big-play receivers in the NFL, no matter who’s throwing him the ball. He may be only 6 feet, but the way Diggs tracks balls allows him to play like he’s 6-foot-5. One former Vikings coach told me this spring that Diggs has the best ball-tracking ability of any receiver he’s ever seen. The Minneapolis Miracle will likely go down as the most famous play in Diggs’s career, but he routinely makes that sort of midair adjustment to snatch passes he has no business catching. Combine that skill set with the type of volume that Diggs is likely to see in Buffalo, and it’s probably going to equal elite fantasy production. The Bills didn’t trade a first-round pick and more this spring to make Diggs just another part of their offense.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Bucs: $6
I’ve been bingeing old episodes of Top Chef recently and was delighted when Gronk showed up during the Boston season. He asked the contestants to make him a Polish sausage, which was a little on the nose. But he sold it well.
Everything is just better with Gronk, and that includes fantasy football. When I started doing this exercise back in 2014, I vowed to include Gronk on the roster every year. I eventually strayed from that approach and came to regret it. We may not get the old version of Gronk this year, but the new version is better than no Gronk at all.
Ravens D: $1
Defenses are always a crap shoot in fantasy, but I suggest taking the team with the best secondary in the NFL. Turnovers are all that matters for both fun and success in fantasy football, and the combination of Marcus Peters, Earl Thomas, and Marlon Humphrey is always a good bet to take the ball away.
Will Fuller, WR, Texans: $6
When Fuller and Deshaun Watson are both healthy, they form a thrilling QB-WR duo. Fuller finished 17th in average air yards per target last season (14) and routinely finishes in or near the top 10 in yards on deep receptions. With DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona, this might finally be the year that the Watson-Fuller combination reaches its full potential.
Cam Newton, QB, Patriots: $3
There are no available fantasy backups with the potential fun quotient that Cam provides. If he’s even close to his old self, snagging him at the end of the draft could alter fantasy leagues everywhere. He’s more than worth the gamble.
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens: $7
Fantasy players looking to maximize fun this season should roster at least one Raven, and Dobbins represents the best value of the bunch. The former Ohio State back averaged an absurd 6.7 yards per carry and scored 23 touchdowns during his final season with the Buckeyes, and he’s now walking into the most efficient rushing offense in the NFL. If 30-year-old Mark Ingram misses any time, Dobbins could have the chance to win leagues.
Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys: $4
The running back who led the league in average yards after contact in 2019 wasn’t Derrick Henry. Or Nick Chubb. Or Saquon Barkley. It was the Cowboys’ fourth-round pick, who averaged 4.5 yards after contact and also led the league in PFF’s elusiveness rating. Pollard averaged 7.1 yards per carry during his final season at Memphis in 2018, and that shiftiness translated as a rookie. Some guys are just hard to tackle, and Pollard falls into that category. He’s also the no. 2 back on a Dallas offense that should light up scoreboards this season.
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Raiders: $2
Two bucks for a top-12 pick that runs a 4.27 40? Sign me up. I have no idea how well Ruggs and his coverage-ruining speed will mesh with Derek Carr’s maddeningly passive playing style, but the end of fantasy drafts should be reserved for high-upside lottery tickets. Ruggs fits that mold, and he’ll have every chance to develop into the no. 1 target in the Raiders offense.
Jalen Reagor, WR, Eagles: $2
The Eagles rookie fits the “speed and athleticism” motif I’ve established at wide receiver. Philly drafted Reagor this spring to give this receiving corps the jolt it desperately needed, and he’ll have a clear path to a starting role in this offense.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington: $2
Washington’s rookie back is intriguing. Gibson actually had more receptions (38) than carries (33) during his final year at Memphis, but he should get a chance to steal some carries in Washington’s muddled backfield. He seems to fit the mold for a modern RB, just like Christian McCaffrey did for current Washington and former Carolina offensive coordinator Scott Turner. Without much established competition, Gibson could emerge as Washington’s top option.