(Doc’s Note: Here is PFF’s Mike Clay’s post on our recent draft, with our evaluations of the teams. You’ll have to go to PFF to see the individual grades since they didn’t fit here. This draft is one of the few I’ve ever gone with a top QB and top TE and it ended up hurting me even though I got them at decent value. But them’s the breaks.)
The first in a series of Draftmaster Invitational leagues is complete, which means it’s time to look back and see not only how the draft transpired, but also what these 12 gentlemen think of each other’s work.
Because I introduced and explained the Draftmaster Invitational format back in February, I won’t go into too much detail on the setup, instead saving space for this ridiculous 5,000+ word draft recap.
The first draftmaster league kicked off on February 25 with Andy Miley’s selection of Arian Foster. It concluded on March 12 when Miley selected Nick Folk. Once the draft was complete, I asked each league member to do two things: (1) Assign a letter grade, a strength, and a weakness to each of the 12 teams and (2) Provide a full recap of one of the other team’s in the league. My goal here was to allow the reader the ability to study each team’s roster and draft strategy and follow that up by checking to see what 12 industry experts thought of each of those teams. You could see which teams were most well thought of and vice versa, which would allow you see which draft strategies worked best. Finally, the draft recaps not only offer the grading expert’s opinion, but also include a comment on almost every one of the 192 selections.
Without further ado, here are the grades, strengths, and weaknesses for each team followed by the team-by-team recaps.
For complete draft results click HERE.
1. Team Mike Clay
Graded by Josh Moore
Quarterback: Schaub is a solid bounce-back candidate coming off a disappointing 2010 after leading the league in passing in 2009. The main thing that hurt Schaub last season was Arian Foster’s emergence in the red zone. I like a healthy Andre Johnson & Owen Daniels to help Schaub’s TD totals & ultimately his fantasy production in 2011. I can’t say I’m wild about Ryan Fitzpatrick, so let’s hope Schaub stays healthy.
Running Back: The RB spot is where I have the most concern on Mike’s roster. While Addai, MJD, LT & Ryan Grant could turn out to be great value picks, all are coming off of injury (or just plain old age causing wear down in LT’s case). Luckily we only need to start 2 RBs in this format.
Wide Receiver: I really like Mike’s stable of WRs. Jackson & Nicks should be week-in, week-out studs while Clayton, Branch & to a lesser extent TO in the right situation all have high WR2 upside.
Tight End: There’s no question Gates is the #1 TE on the board & a head above the rest. 4.02 is a nice place to land him & I have very little injury concern coming off the foot. I probably wouldn’t have even bothered with drafting a backup (Heap).
Kicker / Defense: I liked the 49ers D heading into last year but they ended up being very hit or miss. Can Harbaugh & Fangio turn them around? I’m not going to give it too much consideration as it’s obvious Mike didn’t make DEF a priority, waiting until 15.11. At K, Kaeding will do just fine.
Summary: The strength of Mike’s team is his pass catchers (WR & TE), selected in rounds 2-4 after selecting MJD at the back end of the first round. This is a solid way to build a PPR team starting 3WRs & a Flex. I really like grabbing Gates in the 4th round to solidify the TE position. Mike’s main concerns will be keeping his starting QB and RBs healthy for 16 games. If he can do that, he has a great shot to make the playoffs and take home the Draftmaster Invitational Championship Belt Jim Day has ordered.
2. Team Bryan Fontaine
Graded by Andy Miley
Quarterback: Bryan did great with the big gunslinger in Romo and coming back to get Freeman two rounds later. Romo will have huge games and low games; Freeman should be consistent as his #2 QB and fill in when Romo dips. These two are a strong combo.
Running Back: Ray Rice’s stock may be improving with McGahee headed out of town, but will McClain or Parmele steal carries I still like him in a PPR league. Rice is a beast. We all know Norm Turner loves to the run the ball and Bryan secured both San Diego RBs in Matthews and Tolbert. Having both backs is great as they both never seemed to excell in the same game last year. Sproles and Reggie Bush are question marks as their roles are unknown right now, but either could have an two or three hugh games whih helps in these DraftMaster leagues.
Wide Receiver: This is Bryan’s strongest group. Fitzgerald can come back huge with an upgrade at QB like Bulger. Steve Johnson proved to be the Bills #1 receiving option when not playing my Steelers. San Fran’s Coach Harbaugh should use Crabtree more in his offense. Lance Moore and Emanuel Sanders look to both be the #2 receiving options on pass first teams so they will help with bye and non-productive weeks.
Tight End: Zach Miller didn’t get to the top 5 TEs last year as predicted as he played injured for several weeks. Miller showed flashes in 2010 as we all know Jason Campbell loves the TE, just ask Cooley in Washington. I expect Miller to be top 7 TE this year. Bry took a chance on Jared Cook, but he has huge upside that was shown in the last few games of the season. Cook has the skills, but does he have the head and maturity for professional football?
Kicker/Defense: Chicago has a top tiered defense every year. Bironas is a good kicker that most fantasy owners want as the Titans struggle in the red zone.
Summary: From top to bottom, Bryan has one of the best teams in this league. His WRs are amazing and his only struggle may come if R-Rated (Rice) breaks.
3. Team Ryan Burns
Graded by Brian Quinlan
Quarterback: Tom Brady (Rd 4.07) Matt Cassel (Rd 9.06) – I have a hard time finding fault with this quarterback tandem. While Brady is a very good fantasy QB it’s worth noting that Brees, Rivers and Manning were available at this pick. Matt Cassel is a solid backup with potential to climb into the top 10 as Dwayne Bowe continues to mature. Overall grade – B+
Running Back: LeSean McCoy (Rd 1.06) Cedric Benson (Rd 5.06) Pierre Thomas (7.06) Monterio Hardesty (Rd 10.07) – I am a big fan of McCoy, especially in PPR formats so I love this pick. McCoy might be a better fit in Andy Reid’s offense than Eagle favorite Bryan Westbrook was. As much as I like McCoy I dislike Benson. New OC Jay Gruden will be looking to spread the offense out and that means more reps for Bernard Scott. At this point Pierre Thomas is a big question mark, but in the 7th round he’s worth the risk. If Hardesty can manage not to break his knees he will end up being great value coming from the 10th round. Overall grade – C+
Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings (Rd 2.07) Miles Austin (Rd 3.06) Pierre Garcon (Rd6.07) Jacoby Ford (Rd 11.07) Malcom Floyd (Rd 15.06) – This group is the strength of the team. Jennings and Austin are very solid WRs and Garcon is a nice pick two rounds after his Colts counterpart Austin Collie. Jacoby Ford showed more than anyone was expecting and if Floyd can stay healthy he should be good for 50 receptions, which is great for a WR5. Overall grade A
Tight End: Owen Daniels (Rd 8.07) Jermaine Gresham (Rd 12.07) Dustin Keller (Rd 13.06) – Daniels found his groove at the end of the season and began to look like the player he was in 2009 before blowing out his knee. I see Daniels as a very good value pick who could end up a top 5 TE. This is a flex league but I still don’t think 3 tight ends is the best way to go. I feel like Ryan would have been better suited adding another RB in the 12th or 13th round. Overall grade B-
Kicker/Defense: Neil Rackers (Rd 16.07) – The Texans offense is potent and Rackers is the kicker. Good enough for me. Overall grade A. Defense: New York Giants (Rd 14.07) – The Giants defense has been top 12 in 2 of the last 3 years. In 2010 they were a top 10 defense against the run and the pass, but they did give up 21 PPG, which was only good for 17th. Overall grade B
Summary: The heart of Burn’s ream is the wide receivers. Jennings and Austin are 2 of the best young wide receivers in the NFL. Pierre Garcon played well last season and was responsible for me winning first round playoff games in two leagues. Jacoby Ford is a decent WR4 with great upside and Malcom Floyd is great value in the 15th round. As long as his running backs stay healthy and Cedric Benson get the majority of the carries in Cincinnati his running backs can be good. With the exception of McCoy I do not have much confidence in this group. Hardesty and Thomas are unquestionably injury-prone and Benson is an average running back that produced due to workload. Jay Gruden is going to change that offense up and that will not benefit Benson. I do think the quarterback position is very good with an improving Cassel backing up one of the most consistently good QBs in the league. The Giants have a solid defense, but their special teams does lack a dangerous return man and Neil Rackers is a kicker.
4. Team Brian Quinlan
Graded by Ryan Burns
Quarterback: From top to bottom, I think Brian drafted one of the league’s stronger squads. I struggled to name a position I thought was really a “weakness.” I went with QB because I don’t think of either guy as elite from a fantasy standpoint, but Roethlisberger and Flacco are going to be just fine. Ben is capable of putting up enormous numbers, and if the Ravens get him another legitimate outside threat, so is Flacco.
Running Back: While I wouldn’t go so far as to call him “loaded” at RB, it’s tough to argue with a top three of Gore, Blount & Lynch. All three guys should carry the load for their respective teams, and in a PPR format Gore and Lynch are even more valuable. Blount won’t catch a bunch but should score plenty of TD’s and regularly surpass the 100-yard mark. Both Michael Bush and Mike Goodson provide quality depth with upside should a lead back go down. And they might just.
Wide Receiver: A monster at the top in Megatron, and at least two more in Rice and Collie who could be. Certainly, one has to be at least mildly concerned with Collie’s health, but his PPR potential is massive and you can count on some HUGE games if he’s in there. Had three big ones in the 9 he played last year. Hines Ward and Arrelious Benn provide depth that you know will contribute. Solid group.
Tight End: I like both players a lot; their situations a little less so. Lewis probably won’t score as many TD’s as last year but will remain a consistent contributor. Moeaki has big upside and should be a QB’s best friend…but there area lot of guys that can make plays in Kansas City. But these guys will both help fantasy teams in 2011, assuming…well, you know.
Kicker/Defense: Garrett Hartley is on one of the league’s best offenses, and kicks in perfect conditions most weekends. That’s about the extent of my criterion for a kicker. Oakland has a defense that is improving and getting better at getting to the QB. And their return game, led now by Jacoby Ford, is outstanding. Remember- guys like McFadden and others can fly, too.
Summary: From where I sit, this looks like a team with quality and depth at every position. I graded Brian with an A-. Well done.
5. Team Jamey Eisenberg
Graded by Dave Richard
Quarterback: You’ll never hear me complain about Philip Rivers. As solid a value as they come. But David Garrard might not even start in 2011, making me nervous about the backup choice for my colleague. Could be a wasted pick.
Running Back: Outside of Adrian Peterson and — believe this — Isaac Redman, I don’t agree with Jamey’s running back choices. Thomas Jones is old and really wore down toward the end of last season. Ronnie Brown is a humongous question mark. Ryan Torain could just as easily start for the Redskins as be out of a job come next season — he’s as big of a question mark as Brown. And then there’s Hillis, who is sure to lose a chunk of work in 2011. I’m all for optimism in Hillis but I might not target him for any higher than Round 3.
Wide Receiver: Jamey is super strong here. I can’t help but be a buyer of Kenny Britt even if he shows up to camp out of shape again, and the rest of the receivers have nothing but upside. If anything, the Mike Thomas pick was a waste because he’ll never start for Jamey, though I get why he took him.
Tight End: Jamey waited and waited and waited for a tight end and got Kellen Winslow. I think this strategy is perfect for anyone in standard Fantasy play in 2011.
Defense / Kicker: Really like the upside in the Patriots DST — I wanted them but Jamey got ’em first. Matt Bryant isn’t at risk of losing his job.
Summary: As is the case with most of Jamey’s Fantasy teams, this team is sharp and with minimal holes. He won’t have any kind of problems setting his lineup week to week and should be competitive. I look forward to seeing him finish in second place behind me.
6. Team Dave Richard
Graded by Jamey Eisenberg
Quarterback: Matt Ryan is great value in Round 7. He will again be a quality Fantasy starter with the chance to become a star. Donovan McNabb is a weak backup, but for one week he can be serviceable depending on where he’s playing.
Running Back: You can’t go wrong when you start your team with Chris Johnson in Round 1 and Steven Jackson in Round 2. That’s grand theft larceny. He also added BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Brandon Jacobs for his Top 4, and no one in this league should be able to compete with this talent level at running back.
Wide Receiver: His top two receivers are excellent with Dwayne Bowe and Marques Colston, but his third starter is questionable with Derrick Mason and Braylon Edwards. This is the lone flaw of this team since Mason and Edwards can be good options as reserves but aren’t guaranteed starters for Fantasy owners entering the season.
Tight End: Like his running backs, the tight end position is covered here with Vernon Davis and Rob Gronkowski. But instead of taking Gronkowski he should have focused on another wide receiver. Now he’s put in a position of keeping one of these tight ends or one of those running backs on the bench since we can only use one flex spot.
Defense / Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski remains a No. 1 kicker as long as he’s healthy, and he should return as the starter for the Patriots. The Cowboys defense is a great option with Rob Ryan now the new coordinator.
Summary: This is an excellent team with the depth and talent at running back and quality starters at quarterback, tight end and the first two receiver spots. If he could turn his second tight end or even a running back into a better third receiver this team would be hard to beat.
7. Team Andy Miley
Graded by Bryan Fontaine
Quarterbacks: Drew Brees was a steal at pick 48 overall as the fifth quarterback off the board, showing why it pays to wait on selecting your quarterback after loading up at RB and WR. Sam Bradford is one of the best backup QB’s in this league and has top-10 upside.
Running Back: I can’t fault the selection of Arian Foster first overall. Not much will change with Foster’s situation going into 2011, and Ben Tate won’t pose much of a threat to his carries. Jahvid Best was a good value at the beginning of the third round; however, Miley’s three backup RB’s leave a lot to be desired.
Wide Receiver: Mike Wallace and Harvin form a solid but not spectacular top tandem while Shipley has some PPR appeal as a late round selection. While A.J. Green and Julio Jones top most rookie draft boards now at the WR position, both need to have stellar rookie seasons to carry Miley at this position.
Tight End: Jermichael Finley is a risky selection at #49 overall. Finley was on pace to finish 2010 as the top scorer at the TE position before he was lost for the season due to injury. Aaron Hernandez tailed off at the end of his rookie season, but should post similar if not better numbers in 2011.
Kicker/Defense: Miley went all in on the New York Jets at kicker and defense. Nick Folk is a steady player while the Jets defense is a perennial top-5 option under Rex Ryan. He was able to land the NYJ defense as the fourth defense off the board.
Summary: Andy Miley was able to assemble one of the most solid teams in this format. His only potential Achilles heel is at the wide receiver position having to rely on two rookies for big production. The best QB and TE tandem coupled with Arian Foster and Jahvid Best will have this team in contention this season.
8. Team Matt Schauf
Graded by Cory Bonini
Quarterback: I don’t like the idea of taking a quarterback in the first round. I am still mad at myself for taking Aaron Rodgers three picks after Matt chose Michael Vick. Nevertheless, he backed up Vick with a quality No. 2 in Jay Cutler, so I have no issues here.
Running Back: Matt is counting on big things from Mark Ingram and Jonathan Stewart. Michael Turner should be rock-solid as usual, although this group of backs has boom or bust written all over it.
Wide Receiver: He chose to take a lot of risk with this position. I like Wes Welker and Santonio Holmes, but several other receivers will need to step up to help pick up the slack. He could find himself alternating receivers at a maddening pace.
Tight End: I would never draft two tight ends in a 16-round draft, regardless of positional flexibility. Benjamin Watson is a fine player, but Matt won’t sit Jason Witten for him anytime soon. I would have rather seen this pick used on another upside wideout or running back.
Kicker / Defense: I have no issues here with either choice. He waited until the final two rounds and still landed respectable options.
Summary: Matt’s team is very solid and should compete for a championship if his running back and receiver situations don’t flame out.
9. Team Chet Gresham
Graded by Jim Day
Quarterback: While I am not a fan of going early for QBs this year, getting Peyton near the end of the 4th is great value as compared to Rodgers & Vick going in the 1st two rounds. Manning is almost guaranteed for 4,000 yards and 30 TDs. Orton is a decent, if not risky backup. The rumblings out of Denver are that people shouldn’t be so quick to think Orton is done in Denver. Orton was on a nice run last year before McDaniels decided it was “Tebow Time”. Orton through 12 games had 3300 yards and 20 TDs which should provide plenty of backup to Manning.
Running Back: Chet had a great start with Jamaal Charles at 1.05, but after that he took too many chances for my liking. At 3.05 he took Knowshon Moreno who could be a good number two if he can stay healthy and the Broncs don’t bring in major competition this offseason. His next three just don’t inspire confidence in me. Both Greene and Wells really have not lived up to expectations and we really have no idea what to expect from Tashard Choice.
Wide Receiver: Way too many questions at WR. After grabbing stud Reggie Wayne in the second, he waited until the 8th round to grab another WR. His two picks in the 8th and 9th were Steve Smith (CAR) and Mike Sims-Walker, both players who are looking at new homes for 2011. He had a nice pick with Amendola in the 11th, but then took Danario Alexander in the 12th and Randy Moss in the 13th. Who knows if we see anything from Moss anymore and Alexander is just a flavor of the week that will cool off as we get closer to the season.
Tight End: Chet made a tough decision here with taking only one TE, even if that TE is Dallas Clark. Clark is coming off a big injury and a lot of competition for the ball. Chet should have seriously taken a backup, especially in a Draftmaster league.
Kicker / Defense: Billy Cundiff is a good kicker on a decent team. He only missed 3 FGs in 2010 out of 29 chances. Baltimore is a solid defense, but they got off to a very bad fantasy start in 2010. Through 5 weeks they had 4 weeks with less than 4 points. They did pick up as the season unfolded, but still ended up the year with 8 weeks of 5 points or less.
Summary: Overall, I think Chet drafted one of the weaker teams. His running backs will have trouble coming up with two solid scores a week, let alone try to come up with three to use one as a flex. The bigger problem is that he has the same problem at WR.
10. Team Josh Moore
Graded by Mike Clay
Quarterback: Josh waited until round 9 to select a quarterback, a strategy that left him with 2 very risky options. Matthew Stafford has a ton of fantasy potential, but is an injury risk. Tim Tebow may spend 2011 on the bench behind Kyle Orton. This is likely the worst quarterback situation in the league.
Running Back: Josh went RB-RB in rounds 2-3, which allowed him to grab a pair of borderline top 10 fantasy running backs in Matt Forte and Ahmad Bradshaw. Considering the re-emergence of Brandon Jacobs in New York and the fact that Forte is likely to regress a bit to his 08/09 per-play effectiveness, these 2 are not without risk, but there is definitely a ton of fantasy points to be had. Josh was, however, able to erase some of that risk by snagging DeAngelo Williams in round 5.
Wide Receiver: Mr. Moore was the first to draft a wide receiver, snagging Andre Johnson 7th overall. Dez Bryant is a risky number two, but provides a ton of upside. Santana Moss is a nice find in round 7 and Jerome Simpson could end up being a monster steal in round 11. Jordy Nelson is okay in round 8 if he ends up on the field more than Donald Driver.
Tight End: Jimmy Graham has as much upside as anyone, but spending a 6th round pick on a guy with only a few starts is risky, especially considering how deep the position is once again this year. Brent Celek is worth a shot as a TE2, but is far from spectacular.
Kicker / Defense: Defense and Kicker tend to fluctuate quite a bit, but Josh pounced on reliable options in both categories: Steelers defense and Sebastian Janikowski. Both should prove to be a strength.
Summary: This team has a serious void at quarterback and a shaky situation at wide receiver after Andre Johnson. I like the top 3 at running back, but the next two in line would need help to see a decent workload. Breakout campaigns from Stafford, Bryant, Simpson, and Graham would make this team a serious contender, but I just don’t see enough of them coming to fruition in 2011.
11. Team Jim Day
Graded by Chet Gresham
Quarterback: Jim’s QB situation isn’t great. He went with the two New Yorkers, Eli Manning in the 7th and Mark Sanchez in the 11th. I think Eli at that spot is good. I’m not a fan of his as a real player, but as a fake player he can deliver the goods, but if I’m going to draft Eli, which I very well might, I am going to try harder to get a backup with upside. And seeing that Stafford, Cutler and Flacco went in the 9th round, I would have felt much better with one of those paired with Eli instead of Sanchez.
Running Back: It looks like Jim has got a little crush on our man Darren McFadden, since I’ve seen him pick him a few times now (but he is in a million point 3 drafts!). I happen to share that crush, especially in PPR. As the 4th pick in the second round I see McFad as a good risk/reward play. Run DMC has a whole slew of risks surrounding him, such as, injury , new coach, middling QB and Michael Bush, but his upside is elite and I rather have a risky chance for elite than a good chance for just ok. After grabbing three receivers in a row Jim needed some RB help and went with Felix Jones and James Starks in the 5th and 6th. Both have good upside, but of course both have a lot of downside. Jones is an injury waiting to happen and Starks will have to beat out Ryan Grant to be worth this pick. Jones is a nice post hype player, while Starks is a hype player. I usually lean for the post-hyper-ballers since they usually had at more value, but when it comes down to it, I just like Starks more as a player. Both are on my radar and I could see taking them in the same place.
Wide Receiver: Jim’s first pick was Roddy White at #9 overall. You just can’t get anymore safe than White. He is the most consistent receiver in the last few years, and even more so in PPR. I like White and McFadden as a nice balance of risk and consistency to start out the draft. In the 3rd and 4th rounds Jim went with the two Brandons, Marshall and Lloyd. These two will be hotly debated going into your draft day. It’s hard not to believe that Marshall won’t have a bounce back year in his second season with Miami. His QB situation is enough for me to not be overly high on him, but I believe the 3rd round in a PPR league is about where he should go. Brandon.2 is another question and one I don’t really want to answer on my team. Coach Fox is no Josh McDaniels and Tim Tebow is no Kyle Orton? hmm, well, I don’t like Tebow, and not just because he’s annoyingly annoying, but because he’s as accurate as my uncle around the urinal after his 12th Natty Light. The 4th round is ok for Lloyd and I could see wanting him instead of the other options at that point, but I’m staying away if at all possible.
Tight End: Jim waited on tight end like a good fantasy football expert and got a decent pair with Chris Cooley and Tony Gonzalez. They should be able to get the job done, but they don’t make you get that tingly feeling in your tummy. I would rather have an old timer like Gonzo paired with someone with a lot of upside like Pettigrew or Lord Voldemort.
Kicker/Defense: It’s usually funny to make a joke about these two positions, so I will. A kicker and a defense walk into a bar with an upside running back. The RB says to them both, I may get dropped before the season ends, but I still am a better pick than either of you dumbasses. Well, not really a joke, but whatever.
Summary: Overall I’d probably put Jim’s team in the middle of the pack of our draft with upside to be in the top 3, but I’d probably put mine in the middle as well. You will never draft a perfect team sadly and if you think you have, well, good luck with that. Jim’s bench is a little yawnstipating. I would like a little more potential upside on my bench than safeish players like Tim Hightower, Nate Burleson or even Tony Gonzalez (even though he would be hard to pass up that late). McFadden, Jones, Starks and Lloyd are too risky for 4 out of the first 6 picks for me and I would have liked to offset that risk just a little bit more, but overall I see this team contending.
12. Team Cory J. Bonini
Graded by Matt Schauf
Quarterback: Cory was with me in the early QB wagon, and there’s really no analysis needed on Rodgers at this point. The only question is what effect one more concussion might have, but that doesn’t alter his draft status. If Kolb isn’t starting somewhere, Cory can find someone else to fill in the bye week.
Running Back: There’s upside here. I’ve always liked Fred Jackson, often more than his coaches seem to. Mikel Leshoure could produce in the right situation. C.J. Spiller is at least talented, right? As a group, though, they stand in a giant question-mark formation. The Spiller pick shocked me at the end of Round 5, as I think it could have been made at least three rounds later. I’d take Jackson first straight up and can count at least seven other backs I’d rather have who were chosen after Spiller.
Wide Receiver: Lots of youth and talent, but I also see a living hypothesis. If Mike Williams can avoid the sophomore slump, then he should continue to be quite good. If Johnny Knox and Jay Cutler can develop further in Martz’s system, then the ceiling could be significantly higher. If Chad Ochocinco finds anyone who still likes him, then he could produce. It’s certainly not a bad group, but I’d like to mix in at least one sure stud.
Tight End: Pettigrew was good value at the end of Round 9 and is solid PPR starter material. I’d like a little insurance, though, at least until we see what Pettigrew does with Matt Stafford.
Kicker/Defense: There’s not much to dislike about the Packers D right now, and it’s nonsensical to talk about holes before the draft and free agency arrive.
Summary: Plenty of upside resides among these players, but taking so many chances with one roster means that a lot has to break your way. He and I took quarterbacks well ahead of everyone else, but I have to say that I like much more where my team went from there.