If you haven’t already, you can listen to the podcast that was recorded during this draft here, which was hosted by former ESPN producer Pod Vader. Come to think of it, he not only hosted the league, he was a special host for the actual podcast. Two birds! One stone! You know how the saying goes… and if you don’t, no worries! Just blame Obama! Anyhow, with this expert draft in the books, it’s time to write about said draft in the self-deprecating manner that captivates all of my first dates (and not so coincidentally, last dates) to no end. So first, let’s introduce the players: ESPN’s former Producer Pod Vader, Fantasy Insiders‘ Joel Henard, SportsGalPal‘s Ramona Rice, Her Fantasy Football’s Brandon Marianne LeeMatt Chatham from Football by FootballWally Spurlin from Fantasy Football Sharks, D-Rex (yes, that’s his name, no, he’s not a dinosaur, unfortunately) from PyromaniacDaily Fantasy Sports Rankings‘ Doug Norrie, Pro Football Weekly‘s John Sahly, and Jay from Razzball (hey, that’s me!) And now? My team!

Note: This is your standard, run-of-mill 10-team leagues…

Slot Player, Team, Pos
QB Philip Rivers, SD QB
RB David Johnson, Ari RB
RB Arian Foster, Mia RB
WR Amari Cooper, Oak WR
WR Randall Cobb, GB WR
TE Antonio Gates, SD TE
FLEX Eric Decker, NYJ WR P
D/ST Chargers D/ST
K Justin Tucker, Bal K

So, at first glance, I would say, in the least bias-way possible, that mine is not a weak team per say, but it’s not exactly a strong one either. There are certainly different reasons for this; mainly because I strive for balance, try to mitigate risk with stability (ala Decker paired with Jackson), and focus on value over production in certain areas… but the biggest factor that set the “tone” of my draft can be found on my bench…

Slot Player, Team, Pos
Bench Le’Veon Bell+, Pit RB
Bench Carlos Hyde, SF RB
Bench Dion Lewis+, NE RB O
Bench Vincent Jackson, TB WR
Bench LeGarrette Blount, NE RB
Bench Sammie Coates, Pit WR
Bench James Starks, GB RB

I’m sure a lot of you have been following the Le’Veon Bell situation ad nauseam. (If so, Bell has a few suggestions on how to ease that nauseam… har har.) We’ll get to where I drafted these players and when, but it’s no mistake that drafting Bell had a ripple effect over my entire team, and I think there are positives and negatives here that I’ll go over a little. But first and foremost, I did have a “Bell” strategy prepared, but wasn’t expecting to implement it in this particular draft. But when my second pick came up, and being so close to a turn, I said to myself: Meh, “Expert Leagues” are a different kind of animal. If you think your leagues are competitive because everyone knows everything about anything, try a league where people want to do well because it might determine how much food their children get to eat. (Jokes on you! I have no kids! I think!) So you try to look for any edge you can, or, in this case, an angle to play the game with. Le’Veon Bell was my angle…

Here’s how my entire draft shaped up… (the complete draft results for all teams can be found here.)

Pick Player
9 David Johnson, Ari RB
12 Le’Veon Bell+, Pit RB
29 Amari Cooper, Oak WR
32 Randall Cobb, GB WR
49 Carlos Hyde, SF RB
52 Eric Decker, NYJ WR
69 Arian Foster, Mia RB
72 Dion Lewis+, NE RB
89 Antonio Gates, SD TE
92 Philip Rivers, SD QB
109 Vincent Jackson, TB WR
112 LeGarrette Blount, NE RB
129 Sammie Coates, Pit WR
132 James Starks, GB RB
149 Justin Tucker, Bal K
152 Chargers D/ST D/ST

First, just a few notes. Most importantly, I always draft the Chargers defense last, because I find it very therapeutic to drop them with such disdain when the Chargers let me down in real life. Try it out sometime, works wonders. Less importantly (depending on your level of Chargers’ fandom), this draft took place before Dion Lewis was hit with another 8-10 weeks of injury-ness (not a word). I don’t necessarily regret that pick, especially since I have LeGarrette Blount, and drafted him in an okay enough spot, but Lewis was available at a point in the draft where players like Torrey Smith and Frank Gore were selected, so taking the risk here wasn’t really that big of a deal to me, even without the PPR element. And Blount steps right into the same role of “meh, he’s a depth piece” on my bench that Lewis would have had.

There was certainly a trend of wide receivers in the first round, and I understand why, even in a standard scoring league. It’s almost as if every highly-coveted running back in the first two rounds last year let everyone down. But David Johnson was just too good not to pass up there at nine. And then the Bell pick… As mentioned previously, drafting him limited some options I had, but in retrospect, I never felt worried. I was questioned about the Bell pickup by Pod Vader, and my general sense was: I’m okay with it. I still thought (and still do think) there’s plenty of value here, and this draft took place before his appeal went through and his suspension was lowered from four games to three. Was the pick a little high? Sure, but that doesn’t matter as much when you’re on the turn (or in my case, right before it), as you won’t get to draft again for another 16 players… so aim for the guy you need or want, and don’t have regrets.

And so the ripple effect… I would say it wasn’t bad. I’m very satisfied with the receivers I did net, something I have to admit I was fretting just a little after going RB-RB. I think both Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb are great value picks here, and am excited with what they can bring to the table this year. We all know Cooper’s ceiling, but I don’t think enough has been said about how Jordy Nelson‘s return is going to affect Cobb. I obviously think it’ll be a “high-tide raises all boats” scenario. And yes, I went nautical on you. Honestly, what really helped deal with the, uh, we’ll call it “Belling” was landing Arian Foster. I’m digging all the reports coming out of camp… granted, relying on such information can be folly, but I’m intrigued with him on a Miami team that won’t be afraid to run the ball to set the tempo, something that got away from them a little bit last season. And hey, if it doesn’t work out, it’s a three-game commitment until Bell’s return anyways, and probably the same length of “game leash”, to make up a term, that I would have provided regardless. And Carlos Hyde is basically “Plan C” to Foster’s “Plan B”. Sure, having two back-up plans to your second draft pick is probably not the way you want to go, but I think the margin of error here isn’t that bad for just three weeks. Time will tell though…

Onto the other players… I don’t quite know what to do with Dion Lewis at the moment, and Pod Vader asked about the risk here, but at pick 72, I was meh if it didn’t work out. It looks like it won’t, or it at least won’t until 8-10 weeks later, but I wasn’t jumping over myself to drop him and add James White. I’m actually a little intrigued about what I’m seeing and reading with Tyler Gaffney, but in a 10-team league, I have the luxury of seeing how things play out.

With Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, well, you know what’s up. It wouldn’t be a Jay team without these two Chargers’ anchors, and while I expect pretty good production, I feel like they could lag down the stretch, but it’s par for the course with these two. I like Sammie Coates as last season’s Markus Wheaton, in that there is a moderate amount of hype, though limited. But perhaps the end results can differ to the positive side this time around. And I don’t particularly like James Starks, but Mike McCarthy seems to be a glutton for him, so it seemed like a solid back-end choice. Just like your mom…

So that’s my team, and I look forward to showing off Razzball in our first year in the BlogTalkRadio League. Special thanks to Jay Soderberg (Pod Vader) for the invite and running the league, and I hope to update everyone how the team progresses, both in writing and on the podcast!