Smola's Pros vs. Joes Draft Recap
As its name suggests, the Pros vs. Joes Challenge pits industry experts against FFPC veterans. It makes the drafts 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 big-time bragging rights.
These are Draft Experts FFPC leagues. That means no roster moves 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.
My strategy going into these drafts is upside, upside, upside. For starters, it’s a Draft Experts league. That means deep rosters of 28 players, so you can afford to swing and miss on a few risky picks. And the best-ball format makes those monster weekly performances even more valuable.
On top of that, I’m playing to win this whole dang thing. And to beat out 71 other teams, I need to assemble a real juggernaut. That means passing on safer guys for higher-upside options – even if they’re a bit lower in the DS Rankings.
Here’s a look at the complete draft results. And here’s a pick-by-pick recap of my draft:
1.08 – Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
2.05 – Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears
I’ll group my first 2 picks together because I just mentioned them as a couple of the safest early-round picks in our podcast.
Yeah, yeah … I just talked about aiming for upside in this draft. But it’s not like Thomas and Marshall are lacking in that department. Thomas was the top WR in this scoring system last year and could be in for an even bigger 2014 with Eric Decker gone. Marshall finished 6th among WRs last year and 2nd the year prior.
And regardless of draft format, it’s preferable to start your squad with a safe and steady foundation. Thomas and Marshall certainly give me that.
3.08 – Zac Stacy, RB, Rams
I was hoping Doug Martin, Andre Ellington or C.J. Spiller would fall to me here. Ellington and Spiller, especially, are built for the best-ball format. But all 3 RBs went off the board between 3.02 and 3.05.
That left me with a choice between Stacy or Victor Cruz. Knowing that I’d like the mid-round WRs more than the mid-round RBs, I opted for Stacy here.
He’s not an ideal fit in this best-ball league because he lacks big-play ability. Only 5 of his 250 carries went for 20+ yards last year.
But Stacy was still able to rush for 100+ yards in 4 of his 12 starts. And he scored in 6 of 12. I’m not buying rookie Tre Mason as a legit threat to Stacy’s starting job this season. So even though the big weekly upside isn’t there, Stacy is a relatively safe RB1.
4.05 – Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars
I came close to going with Aaron Rodgers here. His combination of safety and upside makes him a nice pick this late in the draft.
But I didn’t want to be left thin at RB, especially after starting with a ho-hum guy like Stacy. So I opted for another slightly boring but relatively reliable back.
All signs point to Gerhart being a workhorse for the Jags this year. He showed well in limited action with the Vikings and has a 3-down skill set. There’s not huge upside here, but Gerhart’s workload will make him a safe bet for RB2 production.
5.08 – Joique Bell, RB, Lions
If I had felt better about my RB corps going into this pick, I might have opted for a WR like DeSean Jackson or Torrey Smith here. But with Stacy and Gerhart as my top-2 backs – and a couple studs already at WR – I opted to continue bolstering the RB corps.
Bell’s blend of power running and pass-catching ability gives him big fantasy-scoring potential. He finished 14th among RBs in PPR points last year. With another significant role in store this season – and maybe even a bigger role – Bell looks like a solid RB2.
While this squad is lacking a true RB1, the trio of Stacy, Gerhart and Bell should give me at least 2 solid showings each week.
6.05 – DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins
After passing on a WR in the 5th, I was hoping to see Jackson, Torrey Smith or Mike Wallace make it back to me in the 6th. Smith and Wallace went at the turn, but D-Jax was still sitting there for me at 6.05.
I’m not expecting him to match last year’s 82-1,332-9 line. But his combination of downfield ability and what should be an explosive Redskins offense will lead to a bunch of big outings. Jackson’s 7 games of 150+ receiving yards since entering the league in 2008 rank 2nd behind only Calvin Johnson (12) and Andre Johnson (10).
7.08 – Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys
My pre-draft plan was to target Robert Griffin here. He went at 7.01, though, so I decided to hold off on a QB. And I’m glad I did. (More on that later.)
Here’s the 1st case where I really went against our rankings because of the league size and format. Eric Decker, Golden Tate and Reggie Wayne all sit above Williams in our PPR Rankings. But none of those guys have the weekly or season-long upside that Williams does.
Williams is coming off an impressive rookie season and is now set to play a bigger role in Scott Linehan’s pass-happy attack.
8.05 – Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
TEs fly off the board in FFPC Drafts. 12 were already snatched up by the time I went on the clock in the 8th. I was hoping to land Martellus Bennett, but he went at 7.09.
Ertz might end up being the better option anyways. He’s certainly not as safe as Bennett, but there’s bigger upside. Ertz was a top 10 fantasy TE over the 2nd half of last season, and his role figures to expand even further in 2014.
9.08 – Nick Foles, QB, Eagles
The whole wait-on-a-QB shtick goes too far in some drafts. Only 7 were drafted in the first 8 rounds here. That left some huge values in the 9th.
Matt Ryan went off the board 1 pick in front of me. I figured that would start a run, so I grabbed Foles, our 6th-ranked QB in this scoring system. Sure enough, Cam Newton and Tony Romo were taken with the next 2 picks.
For what it’s worth, Foles was sitting as the top Suggested Pick starting back in Round 7. I passed in the 7th and 8th only because I was seeing all the QBs fall well below their ADPs.
10.05 – Terrance West, RB, Browns
Looking for some upside at RB, and West certainly fits the bill. The Browns are sky high on the rookie, trading up in the 3rd round to land him.
Since then, the team has consistently said that there’s an open competition for the starting job between West and Ben Tate. I nabbed West 3 rounds after Tate.
Even if West loses the battle this summer, he’ll be backing up a guy who has never played a full 16-game slate and never carried more than 181 times in a season. I feel confident that West will make multiple starts for both the Browns and this fantasy team this season.
11.08 – Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals
Here’s another upside pick. And another guy with more value in best-ball leagues.
Cincinnati’s run-first offense and deep group of pass-catchers will make Jones tough to rely on from week to week. But he’s a big-play threat with a nose for the end zone. Even in a limited role last year, he scored in 7 of 16 games. And, of course, there was the 122-yard, 4-TD explosion. With a bigger role this season, I’m expecting a few more huge games.
12.05 – Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
I just can’t quit this guy.
Maybe Ingram is beaten out for early-down work by Khiry Robinson and busts again this season. But maybe he picks up where he left off last year, when he averaged 5.7 yards per carry over his final 4 games.
At a 12th-round price tag, it’s not much of a gamble to find out.
13.08 – Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
For as long as the QBs hung around in the first 8 rounds, they really started flying off the board in the next few. Between the start of Round 9 and my pick in the 13th, 12 QBs were drafted.
That made this a good time to grab my QB2, especially since Palmer was still hanging around. After working to get comfortable in the offense over the 1st half of last season, he was a top 12 fantasy QB over the 2nd. He’s capable of that type of production in 2014.
With Foles and Palmer, I feel solid at QB.
14.05 – Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
Another upside TE to pair with Ertz.
Kelce needs to get over last October’s microfracture knee surgery. But if he does, he could be in for a big season. Kansas City has nothing beyond Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles as far as pass-catchers. And HC Andy Reid’s offense got top-10 fantasy seasons out of L.J. Smith and Brent Celek back in Philadelphia.
15.08 – James Starks, RB, Packers
To me, Starks looks like one of the best handcuffs in the league. He’s behind a RB with a lengthy injury history, plays in an explosive offense and averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year.
But in this draft, Starks went almost 3 rounds later than Knile Davis and 5 picks after Ka’Deem Carey – 2 more pure handcuffs.
16.05 – Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars
Not a whole lot of upside here, but Lewis works well for my squad as a steadier option behind Ertz and Kelce.
Lewis could easily finish among the top 3 Jags in targets this season. And he finished strong last year, racking up 16 catches, 242 yards and 4 TDs over his final 5 games. Only 2 TEs scored more fantasy points during that stretch.
17.08 – Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts
If Trent Richardson plays like Trent Richardson did last year, Bradshaw will be the Colts’ starting RB by October.
18.05 – Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers
Floyd continues to fly under the radar after missing nearly all of last season with a neck injury. He’s back to 100% now, though, and is a sweet value this late in drafts.
Floyd was a top 36 WR in 3 straight seasons from 2010 to 2012. And he posted seven 100-yard games over that span, making him even more valuable in draftmasters leagues.
19.08 – Marquess Wilson, WR, Bears
Wilson serves 2 purposes for my team. He’s an athletic 6’3, 194-pounder in an explosive passing game who could give me a big game or 2. Wilson is also a handcuff for Brandon Marshall.
20.05 – Saints DST
You need to target defenses earlier than normal in these deep draftmasters leagues. 10 DSTs were already off the board at this point.
With better TD luck this season than they had last, the Saints carry top-8 fantasy upside.
21.08 – Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Bucs
ASJ was a TD machine in college, scoring on 21 of 146 catches (14.4% TD rate). 5-6 scores this season would make him well worth a 21st-rounder.
22.05 – Shayne Graham, K, Saints
Reliable kicker on a high-scoring offense.
23.08 – Dolphins DST
Because I’m a Fins fan.
But seriously, Miami has a fierce pass rush and added playmakers Cortland Finnegan and Louis Delmas to the secondary.
24.05 – Jay Feely, K, Cardinals
Reliable kicker on what will be a higher-scoring offense than most people think.
25.08 – Falcons DST
Atlanta sits ways down at #28 in our rankings. But it’s about quantity over quality at this point in a best-ball draft. The Falcons D is more likely to start for me than another RB or WR.
26.05 – Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
Murray is 3rd on Oakland’s depth chart, but the 2 guys ahead of him have missed a total of 21 games over the past 2 seasons.
At this point of the draft, Murray has as good a chance of starting games this season as any other RB out there. Plus he’s a 6’2, 223-pounder with sub-4.4 speed.
27.08 – Stedman Bailey, WR, Rams
Bailey was looking like a deep sleeper before his 4-game ban. His role grew down the stretch last year, and he totaled 15 catches for 195 yards over St. Louis' final 5 games.
The suspension takes some shine off, but I’ll take a stab in the 27th round.
28.05 – Mark Sanchez, QB, Eagles
This felt dirty. Filthy, actually.
But I was looking for some protection at QB, and all the starters were gone at this point. Sanchez at least gives me a warm body if Foles goes down.