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FF Toolbox Experts Draft Recap

By Jared Smola 9:52am EDT 6/27/12

 

by Matt Schauf

You can have summer, fall, and whatever the other seasons are called. I’ll take mock-draft season. It’s our OTAs. Everyone is optimistic, ready for a title run. Nobody’s picks suck yet (at least in their minds). And real football has yet to arrive, eat up all my time, and make my wife hate me.

Mock season is getting underway, and I just wrapped up the first in an annual series of mock drafts hosted by FF Toolbox. It’s a pretty cool setup that convenes the same group for 3 drafts in June, July, and August. The draft order changes. The NFL calendar changes. And opinions on players inevitably change.

This isn’t just a team I pick and forget about either. Well, it kind of is. It’s a Draftmasters format, so the My Fantasy League system automatically takes your top-scoring lineup each week. It’s been clear throughout these drafts that not all participants take that into account, but it certainly affects my strategy.

QBs become easier to wait on, for example. Talented injury risks are less scary. It’s easier to rely on upside guys without worrying about grounding the roster with a few more-consistent performers. In the end, of course, it’s still just about picking the best group of players.

(Editor’s note: for more on Draftmasters strategy, give this a click)

The scoring is PPR with 4-point passing TDs and the following lineup:

1 QB
2 RBs
3 WRs
1 TE
1 Flex (RB/WR)
1 K
1 D/ST

It’s a 20-round draft, so let’s not waste any more time on jibber-jabber. (You can find the full rundown with the drafting lineup on comments on nearly every pick at FF Toolbox.)

Round 1

Best Pick: Darren McFadden (1.09)
Worst Pick: Cam Newton (1.12)
My Pick: Chris Johnson (1.10)

Going best/worst pick here feels a little goofy. The 1st-round is mostly about how the board falls. The choices ahead lead you to your pick more than in any other round. I’ll go with McFadden for best pick, though, because he too often gets out of Round 1. He’s easier to take in a format that automatically sets your lineup, but his #1 RB upside belongs in the 1st-round of any format.

The “worst” pick was easier. I really don’t like Cam Newton in Round 1. The drafter called Newton the only player with a “legit” shot to top Aaron Rodgers at QB. Um, nuh uh. For starters, Drew Brees outscored him last year. Even though it took 16 games to Rodgers’ 15, the difference in scoring average was less than 1 point in most formats. Tom Brady was close as well, and has an even more “legit” shot with the addition of Brandon Lloyd. Michael Vick blew away the position in fantasy points per game in 2010. Especially in this scoring format, there’s simply no reason to chase Newton so early. Format aside, there’s this idea that Newton can only get better this year. Don’t buy it. The near-certain regression in rushing TDs is obvious. But consider the passing facts, too. He generated 21% of his passing yardage for the season in those first 2 weeks with the 400-yard games. He didn’t reach 300 yards in a game after Week 4. Frankly, Newton has a decent chance to throw for fewer yards this time around. Can he finish as the top QB? Sure. But he’s no lock. And drafting him this early starts you behind in a top-heavy RB class.

At the time I was a bit surprised that CJ(whatever)K lingered on the board for my spot. Looking back, though, there’s no real surprising pick ahead of him. Johnson is too big a talent to repeat last year’s futility. His O-line doesn’t even have to be that much better. It stunk in 2010, and Johnson ranked 4th in the league in rushing and scored 11 TDs on the ground. Had the guy ahead of me opted for Johnson instead, I’d have taken D-Mac.

 

Round 2

Best Pick: Roddy White (2.10)
Worst Pick: Adrian Peterson (2.11)
My Pick: Jimmy Graham (2.03)

White is kind of an odd case this year. You can’t help but project him among the top-5 fantasy WRs because of his consistent production. Yet it feels a bit awkward to draft him among the first 18 picks with Julio the Great en route to 30 TD catches or so. White was the 5th WR off the board in this draft and still went ahead of his ADP. That currently sits mid-Round 3. Anyone drafting White from mid-Round 2 on isn’t likely to be disappointed.

On the other hand, I think a lot of folks will wind up disappointed with Peterson in 2012. The guy’s awesome, but he’s not superhuman. We already covered this in detail.

Graham has become a common Round 2 target for me. No one can dispute the clear top shelf at TE, and the split there is bigger than at any other position this year. Behind Calvin Johnson, I see a crowd at WR and no reason to jump on my top guy early. The 2nd-round RBs look solid, but the Draftmasters format made it easier to wait. Plus, I’m a much bigger fan of Fred Jackson than are my DS brethren. What does that have to do with anything? You’ll see...

 

Round 3

Best Pick: a bunch of WRs
Worst Pick: Jordy Nelson (3.12)
My Pick: Miles Austin (3.10)

I tried to single out a best WR pick in this round, but it was too hard. It’s tough for anyone to pluck a tumbling player so early in the draft. The upside -- as well as proven production -- that went in this round, though, only further solidifies that you can comfortably start RB-RB (or RB-TE) this year. For the particulars, check out the full draft results.

I’m wary, however, of Jordy Nelson this early because of his extremely high TD rate last year and low target total. I think he’s a 5th-round fantasy guy who won’t last that long. I don’t think it’s nuts to take him as the 15th WR. I’d just rather pick a wideout who can get 130+ targets.

I took Austin right ahead of Dez Bryant. If this weren’t a hands-off setup, it would definitely leave me and the other guy keeping tabs on the pair all season. I won’t quarrel with Dez’s upside. I just think Austin is safer. And it’s not like he’s merely some limited possession dude. Austin has wheels, hands, and proven red-zone production. He also has Tony Romo’s eye. Since entering the starting lineup back in 2009, Austin has averaged 8.6 targets per game with Romo. Bryant topped 8 just twice last season after averaging 6 per game as a rookie.

 

Round 4

Best Pick: Jeremy Maclin (4.11)
Worst Pick: Tony Romo (4.02)
My Pick: Fred Jackson (4.03)

The reports on Maclin so far have been nothing but terrific. You’ll hear more on how we feel about him soon (how's that for a tasty teaser?!?).

Romo isn’t a terrible pick by any means. But we have him ranked 2 spots behind Eli Manning, who went 2 rounds later in this draft. If you love a player, go get him. I just don’t see why to love Romo that much more than the other QBs still available at this stage.

As for Fred Jackson ... What’s the knock on him other than age? The broken leg won’t be an issue. C.J. Spiller should probably get some more work, but it’s not like he outplayed a 30-year-old Jackson last year. The vet was better as a runner, receiver, and blocker. At 31, he has 1,000 fewer NFL carries than Willis McGahee. My comrades around the DS office see a timeshare with a former top-10 pick, and excitement certainly does seem to be building around Spiller this offseason. I see Jackson as Tiki Barber 2.0. Both Jackson and Spiller could deliver in PPR.

 

Round 5

Best Pick: Michael Turner (5.06)
Worst Pick: Brandon Lloyd (5.11)
My Pick: Antonio Brown (5.10)

Turner was the 20th RB off the board. That seems kinda silly regardless of format. Sure, PPR hurts, but there aren’t that many RBs you can count on for 10+ TDs at this stage. He is certainly in that class -- even with fewer carries.

Lloyd is a decent choice given the Draftmasters setup. TDs should come. But there’s a real crowd catching passes in New England. He’ll need to post a fairly big TD rate or get more targets than expected to deliver upside. I’d much rather have Eric Decker in any format, which happened for me in Round 6. I’d also much rather have Robert Meachem, who remained on the board as well.

You know how we feel about Antonio Brown around here.

 

Round 6

Best Pick: Eli Manning (6.05)
Worst Pick: none
My Pick: Eric Decker (6.03)

Eli in this round is probably the first real argument for why you don’t need to jump early at QB. He finished last season 6th among fantasy QBs, should stay around 30 TDs, and will commonly be around as the 8th passer off the board. That’s what he was here.

I tried to pick out a worst, but I really can’t fault any pick in this round. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is less than exciting at 6.10, but that’s a fine spot to buy Marvin Lewis’ love for him. I wouldn’t take Reggie Wayne ahead of Robert Meachem, especially in this format, but he should be Andrew Luck’s go-to guy. Let’s just move on.

You should also be familiar with our feelings on Decker, the Breakout Pick runner-up.

 

Round 7

Best Pick: Isaac Redman (7.08)
Worst Pick: Sidney Rice (7.12)
My Pick: Ben Roethlisberger (7.10)

Redman was the 30th RB off the board here. My MVP Board for the draft listed him as the #22 RB (and that’s in PPR). His ADP is late Round 4.

I’m sure there are others who would gamble on Rice at this stage in a league where you don’t have to set lineups. I’d like to have more going for such a player. He’s still rehabbing both shoulders. Russell Wilson might be his team’s best QB and Rice has started more than 9 games in a season just once.

I expect Roethlisberger to finish the season among the strongest arguments against going QB early. If Mike Wallace shows up for camp on time and isn’t a problem, I think Todd Haley’s arrival will Have Big Ben approaching his career mark of 32 TD passes (2007).

 

Round 8

Best Pick: DeAngelo Williams (8.05)
Worst Pick: Ben Tate (8.12)
My Pick: Robert Griffin III (8.03)

I pick out Williams not because I’m high on him, but because he fits the format so well. The most frustrating thing about owning him -- or Jonathan Stewart -- is figuring out who the hell will score in a given week. That problem is eliminated here. The Panthers would be wise to take the ball out of Cam Newton’s hands more in the red zone... if they’re interested in his survival.

Many fantasy owners seem to expect a repeat of Tate’s 2011. Don’t. Arian Foster went into last year hurt. That afforded Tate the early work and the big start. He took the clear back seat when Foster was fully healthy, though. You might point to the pair of 100-yard games as Foster’s backup, and 97 more in Week 17. If you want to try to predict one-sided games that will afford the #2 RB extra touches, and start said RB in fantasy, be my guest. I’ll stick to starting the guys I know have a good chance to get the ball. Tate edged David Wilson for “worst pick” here because at least Wilson heads in as the #2 behind a player who isn’t healthy or especially durable (Ahmad Bradshaw).

As for my pick, I certainly wouldn’t go back-to-back QBs in a regular redraft. Here, though, I didn’t feel the need to jump on a RB or WR and decided to beat the rush on #2 QBs. We have Griffin projected at the bottom of the starter level and love pairing his scoring spikes with those of Roethlisberger here.

 

Round 9

Best Pick: Santonio Holmes (9.05)
Worst Pick: Jacob Tamme (9.07)
My Pick: Lance Moore (9.10)

Holmes comes off as a jerk, but I have yet to see a fantasy league with likability points. He’s still the best wideout the Jets have -- at least until Stephen Hill matures -- and should be a lock for at least WR3 value.

Tamme proved relevant in just 1 season so far: the year with so many injuries that we all found out the Colts had a wideout named Blair White. Tamme is a solid possession guy, but he’s no better than Joel Dreessen. The Broncos sport a crowd of pass-catchers, and Tamme’s only advantage is familiarity with Peyton Manning. I don’t buy that equaling big numbers. Players such as Dustin Keller, Brent Celek, and Greg Olsen remained on the board.

When Moore is healthy, he always shows up in the low-WR2 to WR3 range. Not everyone notices it. Meachem’s departure leaves some WR snaps on the field, and Brees still likes Moore in the red zone.

 

Round 10

Best Pick: Toby Gerhart (10.09)
Worst Pick: Rashard Mendenhall (10.01)
My Pick: Pierre Thomas (10.03)

Adrian Peterson is human. He’s physically superior to nearly all other humans, but his knees are made of the same things as everyone else’s. This looks at least like a situation similar to Ben Tate-Arian Foster to start last season, albeit behind a much worst O-line. Gerhart should be fantasy-starter worthy a few times this year.

Mendenhall is an OK gamble at this stage, but Gerhart, Pierre Thomas, and LeGarrette Blount followed him off the board in this round. All seem likely to garner more touches this season than Mendenhall.

I aim to be on hand when Pierre Thomas has his full-season breakout. And it will be glorious. Watch him closely some week and try to tell me you don’t like him.

 

Now that we’re halfway through this thing, let’s speed it up again. I’m going to stick to just my picks from here on. Everyone’s rankings tend to vary more widely at this stage in a draft anyway, and many picks come down to filling gaps -- especially on a Draftmaster team -- as much as chasing favorites.

 

11.10 Bernard Scott

The RBs were starting to get scarce at this point, and I didn’t like the drop-off to basically the straight backups and part-timers remaining. The ideal scenario for Scott -- barring BJGE injury -- would be a 50-50 split in touches and serious receiving duty. At the least, his big-play potential looks good here. Across formats, he’s a late-round bench guy with upside.

 

12.03 Brent Celek

The TE board baffled me in this draft. Olsen and Keller were still on the board when I picked Celek. Jared Cook went 1 spot earlier. I’d also be fine with Coby Fleener and Owen Daniels as backups, who went later. As for Celek’s upside, well, we have him projected among the top-10. The only reason I waited this long was because Jimmy Graham allowed me to.

 

13.10 Jon Baldwin

Classic best-ball pick. I’m OK with him late in redraft but will have trouble trusting him and Matt Cassel. I’m totally cool with his potential for 2-TD games here as my 5th WR.

 

14.03 Eagles D/ST

It’s not all that common that I’ll be among the first 3 to draft a defense. But it’s a starter, too. I can only go so long collecting down the bench skill players when this year’s top fantasy D is staring at me. It’ll be a disappointment if the Eagles don’t reach 50 sacks this year, and the LB play should be much improved. This was a top-5 fantasy unit by the end of last season.

 

15.10 Sebastian Janikowski

Same deal here. The format requires you to own 2 of them. Might as well jump out and grab a good one, especially when you can protect yourself against his erratic days.

 

16.03 Marcel Reece

Between the big body that can get it done near the goal line and the hands that played WR in college, Reece should at least show for a few games this season. We’ll see how the whole Oakland backfield plays out behind Darren McFadden, but Reece deserves to be a key contributor.

 

17.10 Cardinals D/ST

I thought about Pittsburgh in Round 15, because the Steelers kept lingering and I liked the idea of sporting my top-2 projected defenses. I waited for Arizona, though. The D itself seems poised for a breakthrough in the 2nd year under DC Ray Horton. There’s a lot of young talent on hand. Throw in the return upside of Patrick Peterson, and the Cards look even better in this format.

 

18.03 Mark Sanchez

A 3rd QB is another quirk of the format. Sanchez is always good for a few of those out-of-nowhere huge fantasy days that momentarily charge the fan base. I don’t buy that Tim Tebow will replace him at any point -- especially after the Jets asked the new guy to bulk up to 250.

 

19.10 Rian Lindell
20.03 Doug Baldwin

Lindell was the 2nd kicker I needed. Baldwin was inexplicably still on the board. I kept passing him over because I already had a bunch of wideouts. I talked myself into Jon Baldwin over him earlier because of the TD potential in the format. Doug Baldwin, however, could well emerge again as the #1 WR in Seattle. That doesn’t figure to bring exciting numbers, but it can certainly provide low-end fantasy starter stats. He’s going to stick around on fantasy draft boards much longer than he should. Take advantage, especially in PPR.

 

E-mail Matt at Schauf@DraftSharks.com. Follow him and Draft Sharks on Twitter.

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