Smola's Pros vs. Joes Draft Recap
This is my 10th season competing in the FFPC’s Pros vs. Joes competition. (Humble brag: I sit 8th among 485 players in the all-time rankings.)
Not much has changed over the years. The competition is comprised of usually 6 — this year 7 — leagues of 6 fantasy analysts and 6 high-stakes players. It’s best ball with FFPC rules (TE premium scoring and 2 flex spots).
You’re not only trying to win your league — but also finish with the top score among all leagues. So drafting for upside has always been the name of the game.
The competition did make a minor change this year, moving to the FFPC’s “slim” format. That means no kickers, no defenses, and an 18-round draft rather than 28.
It’s a bit unfortunate because there was still an edge to be gained in drafting 3 kickers and 3 defenses. But 10 fewer rounds is the bigger change. Now, it really only plays as 4 fewer rounds since you’re not spending 6 picks on kickers and defenses. But it still diminishes your ability to win with depth at a position or positions. Overall, though, I can’t say it altered my strategy.
I drew the #1 pick in my draft this year. You can view the entire draft board here. Let’s run through all 18 of my selections …
1.01 - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
2.12 - James Conner, RB, Steelers
While getting the 1.01 and McCaffrey is awesome, the 2/3 turn is tough this year. The top 13 RBs, top 6 WRs and top 2 TEs are usually off the board — as they were here — and there’s a bit of a drop off behind them. So you tend to feel like you’re reaching at this spot.
I committed to just taking my top 2 guys that I knew wouldn’t make it back to me. That started with Conner, who I’ve really warmed up to since hearing HC Mike Tomlin call him a “featured guy” in May and studying Tomlin’s RB usage. He’s had a RB top 240 carries in 7 of his 13 seasons with the Steelers and produced a top 12 PPR RB 6 times — including Conner in 2018.
Durability is a fair concern. But if Conner can put together a healthy season, I like his chances to produce as a RB1.
3.01 - Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
This pick came down to Ertz vs. the upside of Clyde Edwards-Helaire. I ultimately decided that an elite TE was worth more to me than a 3rd RB.
Ertz has finished as a top 5 TE in this scoring system in 4 straight seasons, averaging 265.5 points per year. That would have landed him 5th among WRs last season. So you can see the impact of the TE-premium scoring.
As a bonus, the Eagles are 1 of my favorite teams to stack this year. So this made QB Carson Wentz a top target for me.
4.12 - Robert Woods, WR, Rams
Woods was actually the top WR available in our rankings at the last turn. But with an FFPC ADP of 5.03, I knew there was a good chance he’d make it back to me here.
Woods finished 14th among WRs in FFPC points last year — despite scoring on just 2 of his 90 catches. He ranked 10th back in 2018 on a more normal TD rate. I got him here as the 18th WR off the board.
5.01 - Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington
I briefly considered Cam Akers here. But if I’m gonna win my league — and ideally the whole competition — I’m gonna need my top 2 RBs to stay healthy. So under that assumption, it made more sense to continue bolstering my WR corps.
I’ve laid out the case for McLaurin. Basically … talent + volume = big fantasy upside.
6.12 - Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals
No one gets excited drafting Boyd — not even me. But I do believe he’s a value in fantasy drafts right now.
He’s finished 15th and 17th among WRs in this scoring system over the past 2 seasons but was the 30th WR off the board here. He’ll likely be playing with the best QB of his career this year. And if you’re worried about the return of A.J. Green, note that Boyd was actually more productive with Green than without him back in 2018.
7.01 - J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens
Here’s a swing-for-the-fences pick.
Dobbins is a rookie RB in a shortened offseason joining a team with a veteran RB that was still very effective last year. It’s possible that he remains in a backup role all season.
But it’s also possible that Dobbins proves too good to keep off the field. Even if he just earns the 13.5 carries per game Mark Ingram averaged last year, we’re probably looking at a top 20 fantasy back.
8.12 - Marvin Jones, WR, Lions
In their 13 games together last season, Jones saw just 1 fewer target and scored 17.9 fewer PPR points than teammate Kenny Golladay. Golladay went at 3.08 in this draft. The gap between these 2 guys shouldn’t be nearly that big — although I think Golladay is more overvalued than Jones is undervalued.
9.01 - Jonnu Smith, TE, Titans
I nearly got squeezed out for my 2nd TE here. Eight of them flew off the board between my 7th and 8th-round picks.
But I was very happy to land Smith as the 17th TE taken. With Delanie Walker out of the way, Smith is a 2020 breakout candidate.
10.12 - Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
I considered grabbing Wentz at the last turn. His FFPC ADP is sitting at 9.05. So I was fortunate to see him still hanging around at this point.
Despite a plethora of injuries around him last year, Wentz finished QB8 in this scoring system. That followed 12th- and 3rd-place finishes in points per game in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
With better injury luck in 2020, Wentz could bust back into the top 5. And I stacked him here with Ertz.
11.01 - Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions
Definitely the pick I’m least excited about. Johnson looks like a committee back in a questionable running game.
But he’s also a talented former 2nd-round pick who we were all excited about just a year ago. He should be useful as my RB4 if he can get 10-12 touches per game.
And, of course, there’s always a chance rookie D’Andre Swift doesn’t fire, putting Johnson in a feature role.
12.12 - Mike Williams, WR, Chargers
Williams is coming off 1 of the quietest 1,000-yard seasons in recent memory. Because he scored just twice. That followed a 10-TD 2018 campaign, so it’s not like this 6’4, 220-pounder is allergic to the end zone.
With better TD luck in 2020, Williams could return a big profit at ADP.
13.01 - DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles
I’ve been drafting Jackson everywhere. He went for 154 yards and 2 scores in his only full outing last year, so there seems to be plenty of gas left in his tank. With Alshon Jeffery likely to open the season on the PUP list and rookie Jalen Reagor an unknown, Jackson has a real shot to lead Eagles WRs in fantasy points this season. The injury risk is more than baked into his price tag.
The cherry on top here is that he’s stacked with QB Carson Wentz.
14.12 - Henry Ruggs, WR, Raiders
15.01 - Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
Here’s a super cheap stack on an underrated passing game. The Raiders ranked 9th in passing yards, 7th in yards per attempt and 7th in Football Outsiders’ pass offense DVOA last year.
And they should be even better in 2020 with the addition of Ruggs. I’m not a long-term believer in the rookie, but he’s a good bet for significant volume this season after going 12th overall in this spring’s draft.
16.12 - Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers
Williams quietly finished 35th among RBs in FFPC points last season, largely on the strength of a 39-253-5 receiving line.
Yes, the arrival of rookie A.J. Dillon means more competition for carries. But I expect Williams to keep a decent-sized pass-catching role. Among 43 RBs with 30+ targets last year, he ranked 4th in Pro Football Focus’ receiving grades and — perhaps more importantly — 1st in pass blocking.
17.01 - Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings
I was hoping to use just 2 roster spots at QB. But after waiting until the 15th round to grab my 2nd, it felt wise to add a 3rd. Especially when Cousins was still hanging around in the 17th.
Cousins doesn’t bring much upside on the run-leaning Vikings. But he’s a locked-in starter who figures to make my starting lineup at least a few times. He finished as a top-12 fantasy QB in 5 different weeks last year.
18.12 - C.J. Uzomah, TE, Bengals
A starting TE in the 18th round. Why not?