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Hello fans of the football fantasy world.  I’m excited to be back for another year of Razzball writing.  In this column, Drew and I are going over our respective strategies in the context of a recent mock draft completed last week on yahoo’s fantasy site.  As Drew mentions in his introduction, you really do have to take these mock drafts with a grain of salt.  In fact, as a supposed fantasy “expert” (arguable) I really don’t participate in too many of them because the egregious reaching, autodrafting, and otherwise unfamiliar behavior of the people in the draft room leads to teams that for one reason or another do not necessarily reflect the teams I pick during the real draft.  It is however, a good idea to mock it up every now and then if only to get a gage of rankings and ADPs so I hope you find this information helpful.

General Disclaimer: my picks reflect particular consideration for PPR leagues as those are the leagues I typically associate myself with.  I know that at least three others were drafting with PPR in mind but I’m not sure about the others.  Also, like any normal man I’m really high on a few guys and really low on others.  When I’m really low on a guy it’s usually because I disagree with his average ADP.  My goal for this exercise is to reflect my strategy and rational for those guys I like.

About the draft:

-12 team

-I know four guys in it and they’re pretty cagey

-there was one auto-drafter

-other people generally began auto-drafting around the 7th and 8th round which unrealistically weakens the process for everyone else

-I drafted sixth

Round 1-Pick 6

Aaron Rodgers - He’s been going earlier in most mock drafts but if he falls to me at 6th I’ll take him.  Drafting a QB is really not part of my strategy until round five where I’m happy to draft Eli, Peyton, and Romo in that order but you have to go with value and it was too good to pass up.  The picks before mine were: Rice, McCoy, Foster, CJohnson, Mathews (the one auto-drafter).

Round 2-Pick 19

Julio Jones - A lot of people will argue that this pick is a reach, particularly because CJohnson and Fitz were the only WRs off the board.  I honestly believe that Julio will be a top 3 fantasy WR this year for a few reasons.  He is usurping Roddy White in the talent category, he is the premier RZ target (Gonzo’s great too but waning), and Coach Smith has decided to turn Ryan loose and make the Falcons a pass oriented team.  The word from Falcons camp is that Jones has been the “MVP”, and that Roddy White believes he will be “really special” this year.  We should take training camp quotes for the optimistic idealizations that they are but my money is on Jones having a monster season.   I would typically pick up an RB here but in addition to the guys listed above, MJD, CJ2K, DMC, Forte, and Richardson were taken and I felt I could get a guy of comparable talent on the way back around.

Round 3-Pick 30

Doug Martin - I needed a running back and I’m loving what’s coming out of camp about him.  Though Blount is technically the “starter” Schiano announced yesterday that the plan is for Martin to start and that he has all the tools to be an every down back (rotoworld).  It’s hard to not be weary of Blount’s role on the goal-line but for a PPR league I can’t help but to see a lot of Ray Rice in his future, especially with Rice’s former coach overseeing his development.

Round 4-Pick 43

Ahmad Bradshaw - I was drafting RB all the way and Sproles, SJax, and FJax were off the board.  Turner was still on the board but all I’ve read about him is that they’re going to limit his workload and feature Snelling and JRodgers a lot more in what looks to be a run 2nd, committee backfield.  I don’t see him as a workhorse back anymore and frankly I don’t see myself drafting him before the fifth or sixth round.  Bradshaw is a risk and I like David Wilson but reports suggest that he is not nearly as polished as Martin, particularly in his pass blocking.  He is fast but needs to work on decision making.  While I do like Wilson’s upside, I like Bradshaw’s toughness and believe he will get a respectable RB2 type workload.

Round 5-Pick 54

Stevie Johnson - This is the round I usually take a QB but with Rodger’s under my belt I was free to shop for a solid position player.  I’m not huge on Reggie Bush and I knew I could get Shonn Green or Isaac Redman in the next round so I elected to go WR.  Lloyd was off the board and I had a choice of Stevie Johnson, Antonio Brown or Eric Decker.  I went with Stevie, whom I like, but If I did it again today I would consider grabbing Eric Decker here.  Reports suggest that there is an Elway/McCaffrey connection between Manning and Decker and the way Peyton looks so far I’m liking Decker a lot.

Round 6-Pick 67

Isaac Redman - Even with Mendenhall healthy, Redman was the more productive back and quite frankly, he doesn’t have any early down competition in Pittsburgh.  Under Todd Haley, the Steelers will certainly be slinging the rock more often than pounding it, but grabbing a workhorse back in a productive offense is great value in the 6th.

Round 7-Pick 78

BenJarvis Green-Ellis - I’ve heard he will split time with Bernard Scott and it’s not like he’s the most talented running back we’ve ever seen but he’s another starter and the guy who will get the biggest opportunity in Cinci.  To be honest, I don’t love the law firm and I missed out on Ridley, Wilson, and Spiller who went just ahead of me but what can you do.  For the record I really like all of the aforementioned guys for their upside.  Stash ‘em if you can; water ‘em and watch ‘em grow.  As far as the law firm goes, it’s really a coin flip to me.

Round 8-Pick 91

Jacob Tamme - In my opinion there is one top tier of TE’s and everybody else.  If I miss out on Graham, Gronk, or Gates (on the edge of top tier for injury concerns) then I really don’t mind punting several rounds before picking up Tamme, JCook, Fleener, or Pettigrew.  I could be crazy but I think Tamme is just as likely to have a big year as Hernandez, VDavis, FDavis, Witten, or Finley and you can get him a few rounds later.

Round 9-Pick 101

Justin Blackmon - This is a bit of a reach but I’m going on upside.  There are some really late round guys that I feel decent about as WR 3’s so I’m willing to gamble a bit on upside here.  P.S. it’s at this point in the draft that I started seeing defenses come off the board (slowly losing credibility).

Round 10-Pick 114

Ben Tate - Foster will miss at least three games this year and there is no better, more capable backup in the entire NFL.

Round 11-Pick 125

Ryan Williams - At this point in the draft I’m just bagging RB’s with upside, hoping at least one pans out.  It’s been my experience that you can always pick up serviceable receivers off the waiver/FA wire throughout the year without much competition, but finding a serviceable RB when you don’t have a great waiver claim is nearly impossible.

Round 12-Pick 138

Kendall Wright-Kendall Wright is one of my top sleepers of this year’s draft.  Britt will miss some games and there’s “superstar” (rotoworld) praise coming from Titans camp.  He will start and he will be productive.  Think of how serviceable Nate Washington was at times last year and multiply his talent by factors of 100.  I highly recommend picking him up and expect him to put up WR 3 numbers early with more potential as the year goes on.  He’s also a great keeper candidate.

Round 13-Pick 149

Randall Cobb - Reports out of camp have suggested that Cobb has been involved in more offensive sets than any other Packer receiver.  This may be a bit of a reach here but he’s also a guy I really want on my roster due his upside and opportunity.

Rounds 14 and 15

Defense/Kicker - It doesn’t matter who I picked, only that I waited until the final rounds.  My advice will always be to wait until the final picks to choose a defense and kicker.  Some people argue that a good defense/kicker puts up a lot of points which is true, but the difference between the top defense/kicker and 12th ranked defense/kicker is marginal.  For example, last year the top defense (SF) earned 169 points in standard ESPN scoring.  The 11th ranked defense (Jaguars) earned 124, a difference of only 45 for the entire year.  The difference between the #2 kicker (John Kasey) and the #12 kicker, Matt Bryant, was only 17 points (Akers was out of his mind).  Compare these positions to the others.  Here is the scoring differential between #1 and #12 at each position:

-QB-178 points

-RB-118 points

-WR-100 points

-TE-143 (about 100 even if you take Gronk out of it)

Other Sleepers

Isaiah Pead - He’s a multi-tool back who Jeff Fisher has likened to Chris Johnson.  The fragile nature of SJax and his playmaking upside should warrant a selection in the later rounds.

Alshon Jeffery - His playmaking ability should shine when Marshall steals double coverage.

Tobey Gerhart - His yard per carry average last year (4.9) was among the league leaders, even besting his ailing teammate Adrian Peterson.  There’s rumors that Peterson may not be ready to start opening day and it’s reasonable to assume that his injury will bother him throughout the year.  Even if he’s healthy, it’s also reasonable to assume that the coaches will limit AP’s carries in concern for his health which should give Gerhart the green light and plenty of opportunities to play a Brandon Jacobs type role in the offense.

Chris Rainey - His size will prevent him from being an every down, workhorse back but he’s explosive and his services are at the hands of Todd Haley.  The Steelers are not exactly deep at RB and my bet is that Haley will find creative ways to get him involved.  It may be a bit lofty but look at what Haley was able to do with the equally undersized Jamaal Charles.

Michael Floyd - Apparently there are already some work ethic concerns and he is not yet a starter but his size and talent makes him intriguing and could deserve a speculative late round pick.

Titus Young, Laurent Robinson, Nate Burleson, Davone Bess, Doug Baldwin - These guys all fall into the same category for me.  They’re role players but players who have shown flashes of brilliance.  If anything, they’re guys you can stash as bye week fill-ins that won’t make you sweat too hard on game day.

Rueben Randle - If Cruz can do it why not him?  With Manningham out of the picture there is another mouth that can be fed in that offense and Randle seems to have the talent to take Manningham’s spot.

Brian Quick - He’s somewhat of a project but a raw talent and someone has to catch the ball in St. Louis.

Draft Recap - This draft was fairly accurate in terms of my team’s talent level.  If anything I feel my team was a bit weaker which was probably the result of some of my cagey comrades picking with me but it was also more of an accurate portrayal of a potential team come draft day.  Good luck to you all and feel free to post questions.

-Matt Jones

Drew’s Take

You have to take any mock draft results with a grain of salt. Between the auto-drafters and knuckleheads reaching like crazy you end up with teams that are stacked most of the time. I look at mocks as a chance to get a sense of the rankings, which players tend to fall and which are going ahead of ADP, and to try out various draft strategies.

This year the rankings are more of a minefield than ever. In the past I have purposely emphasized certain positions but for 2012 I am targeting players at all positions and focusing on value. What I end up with early will influence the players I take early and late. The position I am avoiding in the first two rounds is Wide Receiver unless Fitzgerald falls to me in the 2nd and the elite QBs and TEs are gone along with Running Backs I like. With that in mind, let me go over a Mock Draft Jones and I did recently and talk about each pick and what my thought process was. I had the 4th pick and felt very comfortable there. This was a 12 teamer so my plan was to grab the best RB on the board in the 1st then let value and position dictate the rest.

Round 1: LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia. Foster and Rice were off the board so this was a no-brainer. Brady was there too but I did not give much thought to taking him because QB is deep. On draft day, however, I would have given it some serious consideration.

Round 2: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City. I was hoping to get a shot at Gronk or Graham but they were long gone. Cam Newton was the only player I gave any thought to taking but the upside on Charles was too much for me to turn down.

Round 3: DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas: Cruz and Marshall were off the board so Julio Jones was the best out there at WR and I almost pulled the trigger on him. Murray is such a steal here that I could not turn him down. The leagues I play have 2 or more flex positions; although going RB in the first three rounds is unusual for me I will do it if that is the best of what is out there.

Round 4: Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego: The last few seasons I have owned Gates and been burned so taking him makes me very nervous. All reports are that he is fully healthy and in the first preseason game he looked great. I like the entire San Diego offense to have a bounce back season.

Round 5: Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City: He just puts up big digits year after year. The contract situation and poor Quarterback play does not worry me. In fact with Charles and Hillis playing in 2012 teams will not be able to key in on him quite as much.

Round 6: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago: People forget how well he was playing before he got hurt last year. Now he is reunited with Brandon Marshall and the teams in his division are poor defensively, particularly against the pass. Cutler is one of many excellent values at Quarterback in the mid rounds. Robert Griffin III is the other QB I was considering here.

Round 7: Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington: He should flourish in D.C. alongside RGIII and there is not a lot of competition at WR. I would be prefer Garcon as a 3rd Wide Receiver or Flex play but with all the stud Running Backs on this team I am OK with him as my second Wide Receiver.

Round 8: C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo: The past few seasons Fred Jackson has been expected to regress but has flourished. All good things come to an end and it is likely that 2012 could be the year that happens. C.J. Spiller has made the most of his opportunities in the past and could explode given a chance.

Round 9: David Wilson, RB, New York Giants: This is more of a hedge bet in case Ahmad Bradshaw goes down with injury. In the mid rounds these are the type of players I target in every mock and real draft.

Round 10: Ben Tate, RB, Houston: Arian Foster has been spectacular for several seasons now but injuries have been a problem. Tate will get work alongside Foster and if he becomes the main man in Houston there could be an explosion of production.

Round 11: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta: Word is that Rodgers will get more touches in the offense. Meanwhile, Michael Turner has been burdened with a ton of carries over the last few years. My leagues are mostly PPR as well which makes Rodgers all the more appealing.

Round 12: James Starks, RB, Green Bay: He has been such a disappointment thus far and I cannot say that I am confident he will break out in 2012. That being said he is the feature back on a prolific offense and might just get enough cheap touchdowns to be a viable option.

Round 13: Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle: Clearly I am weak at WR so Baldwin was an attempt to secure some depth and upside. If Sidney Rice looks healthy in a few weeks and T.O. looks to be part of the offense I would not take him in my real drafts. In that instance I would be looking at guys like Michael Floyd, Titus Young, and Alshon Jeffrey.

Round 14: New England Defense: I strictly play matchups at Defense so I did not give a ton of thought to this pick. As the season nears I will pay attention to the schedule early on and decide which defenses to target. I picked New England because they have a ton of young players on defense that are developing and they may be surprisingly good this year; particularly with all the bad offenses in their division.

Round 15: Brain Quick, WR, St. Louis: I took him instead of a Kicker because the more I thought about Doug Baldwin, the more I questioned whether that was enough at WR. My thought process was I would drop one of the two and pick up a Kicker based on matchups.

Recap

This reflects the amount of value I have been able to get in Mock Drafts. My objective is always the same- get as much value as I can. If you end up particularly lopsided at a position or have too many players with a common Bye Week a trade will quickly fix the problem. This your one chance to get as many valuable assets as you can so focus exclusively on that objective.

  1. Great insight kickoff – welcome back!

  2. Zoot says:
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    i am forced with a mini dilemma this season.

    im in a 10 team, non-ppr, keeper league.. we keep two. You forfeit the pick from the round where the player was drafted last year or kept.

    My options with the round pick id forfeit are:
    MJD (11th round)
    Gronkowski (16th round)
    Stafford (10th round)

    MJD is locked in, regardless of the lockout, simply because each team will keep at least one RB, and you’d be foolish not to..

    so my debate is between Stafford and Gronk.

    im emotionally tied to both because they helped me win my league last year

    both being late round picks are low risk. im worried if Stafford can stay healthy and i think i could probably grab him in like the 4th round if i really want him. and im worried about Gronk simply because i dont like the idea of keeping a TE and NE has so many weapons.

    who would you guys keep?

    • Drew

      Drew says:
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      @Zoot, Gronk fo sho. There is a lot bigger drop off from him down to the lesser TE’s than there is from Stafford to the middle round TE’s.

  3. A Hill O' Beans says:
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    Drew,

    I’m all for taking value but, I’m not sure I can get behind taking 8 RB in your first 12 picks. It seems to me it’s going to take quite a bit of trading to field a competitive team when you’ve taken what, like 6 bench RBs before you’ve taken your #3 WR.

    This was a Yahoo draft, so I’m assuming 2RB/1WR/No Flex, so even the start of the draft with RB/RB/RB seems a little 2008 to me. This is a passing league now, so I don’t think that strategy will fly too well anymore.

    Just my thoughts.

    • A Hill O' Beans says:
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      @A Hill O’ Beans, Sorry that should have been 2RB/3WR/No Flex obviously…

    • Drew

      Drew says:
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      @A Hill O’ Beans, RB x3 is not my preference but I will do it if I have to. With this team I would look to make a trade most likely.

  4. UW says:
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    QB, WR, WR, WR, RB, RB, TE, W/R/T, Q/W/R/T, K, DEF, (9 BENCH SLOTS)

    This is an old league that just changed the flex positions and added keepers. Would I be crazy to not draft a QB first if there is a top 2 QB in the draft?
    Could you make the case to draft two QBs no matter what?

    I don’t think in all the years I have done ffball I have taken a QB with my first 3 or 4 picks but I am not sure this year.

    Thanks

    • UW says:
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      @UW,
      8 Teams

      • Drew

        Drew says:
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        @UW, If I am reading this correctly you can play a QB at the Flex? If that’s the case this is effectively a 2 Quarterback League and I would try to get three really good ones (2 as starters, 1 as a backup/Bye week fill in). In a 2 QB League Rodgers, Brady, and Brees should be the first three players off the board and you can make an argument for taking Cam Newton 4th.

        • UW says:
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          @Drew, yes and thank you. It is tough to swallow for me but QB first has to be the way to go.

  5. nick m. says:
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    12-team PPR (2-keeper league)
    6 pts passing/rushing/receiving TDs & 1 pt per reception.

    [b][u]2-Part Question:[/u][/b]
    [b]1)[/b] Who should be my second keeper after Ray Rice in the 1st out of these options:
    Charles – Round 2
    Gates – Round 3
    Romo – Round 4
    Shonn Greene – Round 5
    Ridley – Round 16
    Denarius Moore – Round 16
    Evan Royster – Round 16
    Leshoure – Round 16

    2) With the above in mind, it looks like the following players will be available to me in Round 2, who should I target and does that change the 2nd keeper above:
    MJD
    Ryan Matthews
    Jimmy Graham (not sure if he will really be there)
    Andre Johnson
    A.J. Green
    Trent Richardson
    Cam Newton

    • Drew

      Drew says:
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      @nick m., You don’t have an obvious steal but of those Gates for a 3rd is the best value in a 2 Keeper League. Several of the players you listed will probably be gone with that many Keepers but my preference, in order would be:
      1) MJD
      2) Graham (trade Gates in that instance, although it is unlikely)
      3) Cam Newton (I am surprised he is not being kept)
      4) AJ Green
      5) Andre Johnson
      6) Trent Richardson
      7) Ryan Mathews

      • nick m. says:
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        @Drew, I could also keep Charles at a 2 in that group? Just means I don’t see a pick until pick #36

        • Drew

          Drew says:
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          @nick m., Charles would be fine to keep as well. Not having a pick until 36 is going to really put you behind the 8 ball that would be my only hesitation. Some years you just don’t have great Keepers at low costs. In my 2 QB League I am hanging on to Brees for a 1st rounder because I have no better options. Long story short I would prefer to keep someone other than Charles so at least I get that 2nd round pick.

  6. Jason says:
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    Im in a 20 team league. Where should I focus to get lucky after all the obvious choices are off the table?

  7. Sal says:
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    10 team 3 player keeper 4life league. It’s very td heavy. Do I keep McFadden @ rd2 or Fred Jackson @ rd. 12? My other keepers are ray rice @ 10 and roddy white @ 6.

    • Drew

      Drew says:
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      @Sal, I like McFadden more but the round 2 price tag is heavy. Do you think you have a good shot at winning your league this season? If so I would keep Jackson so you have that 2nd rounder to get another quality player. The biggest problem I have with McFadden is having to give up a 2nd rounder every year going forward. It would be nice if you had him for something like a 6th rounder.

  8. S-Quire says:
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    Very interesting mocks. Tough to get a read when you have a lot of unknown factors like knuckleheads, different formats in mind, and auto-draft; but always a somewhat useful exercise. I’ve run probably triple digit mocks on the simulator.

    Anyway, I’d just say that I don’t think Julio was a reach. I think if you want him, you probably have to take him in round 2. Not sure I’d do it, but I can’t argue against it much. I thought Doug Martin was a reach. But I have a bad taste in my mouth from Ingram, and memories of Mathews, and now Trent Richardson’s escalating issues scaring me off rooks.

    I’m intrigued by the RB / RB / RB picks here. My main problem is I went back and looked my league’s draft, historically for the last couple years, and if I haven’t secured a QB by early round 5, I’m taking a big risk in my 6 pt. passing TD league (also 20 yards throwing for 1 pt and crazy bonuses).

    • Drew

      Drew says:
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      @S-Quire, Good comments. QB is certainly a quandary and can be handled in a few different ways. With imbalanced scoring in a league such as yours QB should be heavily emphasized. Without an elite QB you will never be competitive. I would advise taking Rodgers/Brady/Brees if you can.

  9. Dead Mouse says:
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    I think AJ Green is pretty underrated. The consensus in the 2010 draft is that Green was superior to Jones as an overall receiver. Yes Julio has the gaudy athleticism but Green has the height, body control, route running and smarts to be a dominate receiver.

    He had a better season than Julio with a lesser QB. And he’s not splitting receptions unlike Jones who has Roddy next to him.

  10. Tom says:
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    Drew,

    Yoda! Need you expert advise: 12 team league in which we get to choose the slot we pick in by the number drawn. I am up now. #1 picked #1, #2 picked #2, now I am up and I am thinking about taking a later pick, #7-10? WWDD?

    • Drew

      Drew says:
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      @Tom, Hey I just got on here so it’s probably too late. 7-10 I’m looking at Calvin Johnson, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees.

  11. Liz says:
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    My man Matt – I will be using your feedback as my fantasy football guide this season. It’ll be the first season I get respected by my opponents.

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