English's Pros vs. Joes Draft Recap
The Pros vs. Joes Challenge pits industry experts against veterans of the Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC). That alone makes the draft both challenging and unpredictable.
This year’s Challenge is made up of 6 separate 12-team leagues. The winner of each takes home a 2015 FFPC Main Event entry – plus major bragging rights.
These are Draft Experts (or “best-ball”) FFPC leagues. That means no roster moves or trades and optimal starting lineups. Scoring is 1 PPR for RBs and WRs and 1.5 PPR for TEs. Starting lineups are 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 2 Flex, 1 K and 1 DST.
With 2 flex spots, you can take a number of different paths with FFPC drafts.
That flexibility allows you to grab value at RB, WR and TE. Positional runs can be extreme in the FFPC, but in most cases, you can wait and take a solid QB1 as late as Round 12. I knew going in that I’d be patient there. Other than that, though, it was tough to forecast how my draft would unfold. The fact that I picked in the 1 spot – and routinely watched 22 picks fly in between my turns – made matters tougher. If I really wanted a certain player, I couldn’t be afraid to reach for him.
Besides, as Jared alluded to in his recap, grabbing guys with upside is key in this league. It’s winner-take-all, so if you’re not 1st, you’re last.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should be reckless with all 28 of your picks. You need stability mixed in with those breakout candidates.
Head here for the full draft results. Then, see below for analysis on my picks.
1.01– LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
Adrian Peterson was the pick here if I followed my MVP Board. I do like AP, but I love the upside of a younger McCoy in the best-ball format. McCoy also has the edge in supporting cast, and we know that HC Chip Kelly wants to push the tempo.
The Vikes do want to increase Peterson’s action in the passing game. And that made my decision tougher. Still, I struggled to get over the fact that Peterson’s never topped 50 grabs in a single season.
2.12 – Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers
3.01 – Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
Two rounds in, and I’ve reached the turning point of my draft…
Realizing the depth at WR, I considered taking 2 more RBs (C.J. Spiller and Doug Martin). Say what you want about their 2013 performances, but both carry plenty of appeal heading into the new season. Spiller has the big-play skill set and reception upside that’s desirable in this format. Martin’s a threat for 10+ TDs and could eclipse 300 touches – despite talk of a timeshare.
Ultimately, though, I cornered the market on Green Bay’s top WRs. The Cobb-Nelson duo carries the upside to post huge totals in any given week, while I like the chances of at least 1 going off across all 16 games.
Nelson’s rapport with Aaron Rodgers gives him a shot a finishing as fantasy’s #1 WR. Last year, Nelson’s 16-game pace with Rodgers gave him a 98-1,620-14 line – enough to finish atop the year-end WR rankings.
Cobb’s a serious threat to lead all WRs in receptions, especially with James Jones and Jermichael Finley out of the mix. At 24, Cobb’s also playing for a new contract.
I knew this move would leave me unsatisfied with my RBs, but having a stud like McCoy puts less stress on the rest of the pack.
4.12 – Joique Bell, RB, Lions
Call Bell a backup if you wish, but he still averaged nearly 14 touches per game last year. Reggie Bush has played a full season just once over the past 7 seasons, so Bell’s likely to make some starts in 2014. Regardless, at 5’11 and 220 pounds, he’s already the clear goal-line option for one of the NFL’s top offenses.
Bell nearly ranks above Bush in our 2014 PPR rankings.
5.01 – Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins
Wallace feels like a reach here, but again, that’s life at the turn.
This pick was also made before news surfaced that he’s dealing with a hamstring injury. With over 1 month until meaningful football, I’m not concerned about Wallace’s availability. It’s not a serious injury, and the 28-year-old has missed only 1 game through 5 NFL seasons.
The fact that he’s losing reps with QB Ryan Tannehill is what’s most unfortunate. Their deep ball connection will be a difference-maker in 2014, but I felt the upside was worth gambling on at this point.
6.12 – Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons
Here’s another case of injury news breaking just says after the draft.
At the time, Jackson looked like one of those core pieces I mentioned before. Despite the addition of rookie Devonta Freeman, Jackson projected as a 12-15 carry-per-game rusher with goal line work to boot. That’s still plenty doable – Jackson’s Week 1 status isn’t believed to be in doubt – but I likely could have gotten him 1-2 rounds later had his hamstring injury already surfaced.
7.01 – Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
Yep, another ageing RB …
I certainly didn’t target Gore and Jackson coming into the draft. RB thinned out quickly, though, and I pounced. I did attempt to land either Carlos Hyde or Devonta Freeman in Round 10, but they both went ahead of me.
Injuries to the 49ers backfield leave Gore in a great spot for another 275+ touches. And that’s in an offense with the talent to make a living in the red zone. We’ll see if Gore can appear in all 16 games for the 4th consecutive season.
8.12 – Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins
Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler went in the 11th round. They’re certainly better values in hindsight, but I’m still happy to land our 2014 Breakout Player here. He was the 8th QB off the board and has the upside to finish much higher following the addition of DeSean Jackson.
9.01 – Ladarius Green, TE, Chargers
I praised Green in our Grab This Player series last month. He’s a freak athlete on a team that lacks reliable pass-catchers behind Keenan Allen. Green scored TDs from 22, 30 and 60 yards in 2013, highlighting the type of talent I want in this format.
Without Antonio Gates, Green likely sneaks into the 5th or 6th round. But the 34-year-old TE doesn’t seem like a major obstacle, especially after he stalled down the stretch last season.
10.12 – Tavon Austin, WR, Rams
The Rams want to establish the run this season – and they have the personnel to do it. We’re also not 100% sure what Sam Bradford has to offer after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. I’ll admit that this isn’t an ideal situation for Austin.
Volume looks to be on his side, however. Steadman Bailey is suspended for the first 4 games. Kenny Britt’s a total wildcard, while Brian Quick and Chris Givens haven’t yet matured as NFL WRs. Austin’s the superior playmaker in this group with the wheels to take it the distance on almost any play. His ability to see extra touches on handoffs, sweeps or end-arounds is a bonus.
11.01 – Hakeem Nicks, WR, Colts
It wasn’t encouraging to read that Nicks isn’t meeting the expectations of his new team. It’s too early to get concerned, though, even if the Colts primarily run 2-TE sets with T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne at WR. Indy’s defense could force several shootouts this year, while I like the odds of Andrew Luck propelling Nicks to a mini bounce-back after scoring 0 TDs in 2013.
12.12 – Eric Ebron, TE, Lions
I didn’t target Ebron going in, as rookie TEs often struggle adjusting to the pros. He’s just 21 years old, and he’s already struggled with drops in training camp. A unique skill set should still allow for a couple huge fantasy lines. There’s certainly scoring upside in a Detroit offense that finished top 10 in red-zone scoring attempts last season.
13.01 – Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jags
Lewis is one of my favorite under-the-radar TEs. He probably would have been available 2-3 rounds later, but I wanted to shore up a shaky position. If healthy, Lewis is a dark horse candidate to lead Jacksonville in receptions this season. The WR corps certainly looks shaky, with Allen Robinson and Cecil Shorts currently battling injuries. Lewis quietly scored in 4 of the past 5 games last year, too.
14.12 – E.J. Manuel, QB, Bills
Manuel looked brutal in the Hall of Fame Game, but what do you expect from an August 3rd exhibition? He’s shown flashes of improvement in training camp and dynamic rookie Sammy Watkins is a major reason why. Manuel’s rushing upside provides another plus, though the attempts could be curbed this year as he looks to avoid further knee injuries.
15.01 – Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons
While I didn’t land Devonta Freeman, I still wanted some piece of Atlanta’s backfield. Even if Steven Jackson misses regular season games, the team’s unlikely to make their rookie a workhorse.
Rodgers quietly tallied 52 and 53 receptions over the past 2 seasons. He’d project as the 3rd down back with the upside to reach another 50-catch season if Jackson misses significant time. Rodgers has also returned kicks since 2012, and special teams TDs do count in this league.
16.12 – Geno Smith, QB, Jets
Another not-so-flashy QB pick with the rushing upside to make appearances in my lineup. Smith did end 2013 on a high note, finishing with the 4th most fantasy points among QBs over the final month. Add Eric Decker and Chris Johnson to the mix, and we should see more consistency in Smith’s 2nd season. Michael Vick really isn’t a threat to start unless Smith totally flops.
17.01 – Theo Riddick, RB, Lions
Riddick’s received a ton of hype this offseason. Most recently, we heard his position coach suggest the young RB could see time in the slot this season. It’s probably coachspeak, although the Lions are thin behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Realistically, Riddick will need an injury to either Joique Bell or Reggie Bush to gain true fantasy value. He still provides value to me as a Bell owner, and as noted, I love the upside that Detroit’s offense allows for.
18.12 – Davante Adams, WR, Packers
I’m not worried about the health of Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb. Adams simply gives me insurance in the event that either guy suffers a serious injury. Jarrett Boykin is currently running as the #3 WR, but Adams has the talent to pass him over the next month. A rookie 2nd-rounder, Adams recorded a video game-like 131-1,718-24 line at Fresno State last year.
19.01 – Chris Polk, RB, Eagles
Here’s my handcuff to LeSean McCoy. If the starter goes down, Polk’s likely looking at 15-20 touches per game in one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. Darren Sproles certainly isn’t a between-the-tackles runner at 5’6, 190 pounds, but Polk looks the part at 5’11, 222.
20.12 – Marques Wilson, WR, Bears
Wilson’s one of most intriguing backup WRs in the game. The 2013 7th-round pick didn’t see the field much last year, but he’s shined throughout Chicago’s offseason program. Standing 6’4, he’s another big-bodied target who’d become an intriguing plug-‘n-play in lineup setting leagues if either Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery missed time. In a best-ball format, he’s the perfect upside pick in the later rounds.
21.01 – Allen Robinson, WR, Jags
More tough injury luck. Robinson’s unlikely to make an early-season appearance in my lineup, but there’s still plenty of snaps up for grabs in Jacksonville. Cecil Shorts’ reoccurring hamstring woes allow Robinson a chance to make several starts in 2014. I’ll take that from one of the more polished rookie WRs in this draft class.
22.12 – Jay Feely, K, Cardinals
23.01 – Randy Bullock, K, Texans
24.12 – Billy Cundiff, K, Browns
25.01 – NY Jets Defense
26.12 – Washington Defense
27.01 – Oakland Defense
28.12 – Luke Willson, TE, Seahawks
I’m thin on proven TEs, so why not add another guy to the mix? Willson played 466 snaps as a rookie 5th-round pick last year. That number should rise in 2014 as veteran teammate Zach Miller settles into a blocking role. Seattle could feature plenty of 2-TE sets, especially if Percy Harvin suffers another injury.
Robert Griffin III