While fortune typically plays an important role in deciding the fates of fantasy football teams, it's nothing team owners can control.
Where they do have say in their success, though, is the amount of preparation they do before the NFL season starts.
Research is invaluable—hence why you're reading this—but few tools are more helpful than mock drafts. They can put you up against real players or programmed simulations, allowing you to experience the real-time challenges of a live draft.
We put ourselves to the test by mock-drafting a team with FantasyPros' Draft Wizard simulation. It's a 12-team, half-PPR league, and we were randomly assigned the No. 5 pick.
Before presenting and analyzing our results, we'll lay out a top-40 PPR cheat sheet to help you navigate your drafts—mock versions or the real thing.
PPR Top-40 Cheat Sheet
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
3. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
5. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
6. Le'Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets
7. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
8. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
9. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
10. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
11. Todd Gurley II, RB, Los Angeles Rams
12. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
13. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
14. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
15. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
16. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
17. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
18. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns
19. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
20. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
21. Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders
22. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
23. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
24. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
25. Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings
26. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
27. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
28. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys
29. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
30. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
31. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
32. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
33. Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
34. Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams
35. Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts
36. Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
37. Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
38. Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
39. Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
40. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mock Draft Results
QB: Cam Newton, CAR (Round 7, Pick 77)
RB: David Johnson, ARI (R1, P5)
RB: Marlon Mack, IND (R3, P29)
WR: Kenny Golladay, DET (R4, P44)
WR: Alshon Jeffery, PHI (R5, P53)
WR: Christian Kirk, ARI (R6, P68)
TE: Travis Kelce, KC (R2, P20)
DST: Buffalo Bills (R15, P173)
K: Greg Zuerlein, LAR (R14, P164)
BN: Kyler Murray, QB, ARI (R8, P92)
BN: Geronimo Allison, WR, GB (R9, P101)
BN: Matt Breida, RB, SF (R10, P116)
BN: Kalen Ballage, RB, MIA (R11, P125)
BN: Tyrell Williams, WR, OAK (R12, P140)
BN: Devin Singletary, RB, BUF (R13, P149)
Landing the fifth pick was a bit of a letdown, as it meant—barring a miracle—we wouldn't have access to our favorite four running backs: Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott.
When the first four picks passed without a miracle, we had a dilemma. Should we take the top player on our draft board—David Johnson, who we really like but don't quite love—or have our pick of the entire wide receiver position.
We trusted the board and went with the Arizona Cardinals star, who was last season's ninth-ranked fantasy back but should get a boost from the arrivals of quarterback Kyler Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
"I think it'll be similar to 2016," said Johnson, who was fantasy's top performer that season with more than 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns. "I think I'll be utilized as both a runner and a receiver."
We're not looking from No. 1 overall production from Johnson, but since he was the fifth pick, he doesn't have to deliver it to justify the selection. As long as he's as active as we expect—he should be the top rusher and Murray's safety net in an offense that might play faster than anyone—we're confident he'll have us feeling good at the top.
Round 2 was littered with second-tier options, or the top tight end who performs like a WR1. Travis Kelce was the pick a year after working magic with Patrick Mahomes to the tune of 103 receptions for 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns—all career highs.
At the 29th slot, wide receiver looked deeper than running back, but we wagered on that still being the case at pick 44. So, rather than start our receiver collection, we rounded out our starting running back group with Marlon Mack, who totaled more than 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10 scores in only 12 appearances (10 starts).
With pass-catchers flying off the board, the receiver group took our attention each of the next three rounds.
Since A.J. Green and Stefon Diggs didn't fall in our laps, we sandwiched high-ceiling youngsters Kenny Golladay and Christian Kirk around steady veteran Alshon Jeffery, who offers some upside of his own with Carson Wentz back under center for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Then, the wait was over at quarterback, as the position had picked up steam since the fourth round. Rather than bank on one mid-tier option, we targeted two with Cam Newton and Murray in consecutive rounds. (Maybe this isn't your cup of tea, but last year the strategy delivered Mahomes—a round after the reliable Philip Rivers.)
If Newton's shoulder holds up—he had surgery in January—he's probably being underdrafted as the 11th quarterback off the board. He's been top two at his position each of the last three seasons in which he's played 16 games.
As for Murray, he might be a total unknown at this level, but he has the ability to be a fantasy monster. He lit the college football world on fire last season (capturing the Heisman Trophy with 4,361 passing yards, 1,001 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns) and should be a perfect fit for Kingsbury's Air Raid attack.
Youth dominated our bench spots, as they probably should yours. If a player isn't an automatic starter, it often makes more sense to roll the dice on potential instead of spending reserve slots on low-ceiling vets.
Finally, we went a round earlier than everyone to grab our top kicker, Greg Zuerlein, with the intention of likely streaming defenses throughout the season.
If we played out this year, we probably wouldn't keep the Bills for too long, but they could get off to a hot start with the Jets, Giants and Bengals comprising their schedule's first three weeks.