Fantasy Football: High-Stakes Mock Draft Analysis and Why to Draft for Upside

Brian Jester@@FSG_BrianJContributor IIIAugust 23, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24:   Miles Austin #19 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

High-stakes fantasy football contests are becoming more popular nowadays, but it’s tough to get advice or strategies to dominate those leagues.

Recently, I did a mock draft for the Footballguys Player’s Championship high stakes league. I’ve decided to write about my thoughts from the draft, my draft strategies and other tidbits that I found interesting.

The big difference between this contest and other well-known high-stakes leagues is the PPR scoring for TEs and the dual-flex. While RBs receive one point-per-reception, TEs are awarded 1.5 PPR. The starting lineup looks like this:

1 QB
2 RB
2 WR
1 TE
2 Flex
1 PK
1 D/ST

Thus, in a PPR league (with two flex spots and a top-heavy prize pool), my two goals for drafting are:

1) Focus on high-reception WR/TE.
2) Focus solely on upside – be willing to take risks to hit the “home runs.”

If you want to win these leagues (read: win the top prize), you need to have the highest-scoring team out of hundreds, if not thousands, of entries. Therefore, every player on my roster will have a high ceiling.

I drew the third pick and here is a link to the entire draft: View Mock Draft

I drafted under the team name “BR.” To see how everyone did, here’s a look at everyone’s rosters: View Rosters

Here is my analysis of my draft, pick-by-pick:

1.03 – LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI – Running backs are very top-heavy in this year’s draft, so having a top-three pick allowed me to secure an anchor to my RB squad. With the high-ceiling strategy in mind, Arian Foster would be my top pick.

Foster is one of the few players with an upside of 20-plus TDs and 2,000-plus total yards. But LeSean McCoy is a nice consolation prize and is really one of the low-risk, high-upside guys in the first round.

2.10 – Andre Johnson, WR, HOU – Once again, we’re going for high upside. I know Johnson has missed 12 games in the last two seasons. I also realize that he’s never scored more than 10 TDs in a season. But I’m looking for players who have the ability to finish No. 1 at their position—something Andre Johnson has done once (and almost twice, finished WR2 in 2008).

Johnson certainly has injury concerns, but his points-per-game numbers are worthy of a selection as my No. 1 wideout. While the Texans are a run-first offense, Johnson still has averaged 10-plus targets per game each of the last four seasons.

There aren’t many players who have the ability to catch 100-plus passes with 1,500-plus receiving yards. Andre Johnson is one of them.

3.03 – Roddy White, WR, ATL – Roddy is one of the few players that I’ve selected who really doesn’t have much of a chance to outperform his draft position. I was hoping for either Aaron Hernandez or Trent Richardson here, but neither was available by the time my pick rolled around.

I even posted an article last month saying that Julio Jones would be the best fantasy option in Atlanta (which someone in this draft must have read, as he was the No. 2 receiver off the board).

However, White is still a priority target in a great offense and will produce consistent week-to-week numbers. Although I wanted a higher-upside choice here, White still makes for an incredible WR2 in a PPR league.

4.10 – Fred Davis, TE, WAS – Tight ends go off the board FAST in these drafts, and tight ends with upside fall off a cliff quickly. I had my choice here of Fred Davis, Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley.

Fred Davis isn’t the most physically gifted of these three. He’s also never posted a TE1 fantasy finish. In fact, you could argue that he doesn’t have the highest ceiling of the three players, either.

But, I think Fred Davis has the best chance of reaching his ceiling this season. He was a top-five TE in the 12 games he played last season and has little competition for receptions on an offense that will need to throw the ball to compete in 2012.

When you play the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants twice in a season, you’re going to need to put up some points. The beneficiary of the arrival of Robert Griffin III will be Fred Davis.

5.03 – Miles Austin, WR, DAL – Miles Austin is the very definition of high-risk, high-reward. Austin missed multiple games last season with hamstring injuries, and it appears that the issue hasn’t gone away this preseason.

This pick was made before it was announced that Austin would miss all of the preseason, but still should be ready for Week 1. Even so, I would love to have Austin on my teams in this contest because he fits the very description of what I’m trying to accomplish.

When a healthy Miles Austin is on the field with Tony Romo, he has averaged nearly 21 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. Miles Austin has one of the highest ceilings in the league, and I can grab him as my No. 3 WR.

The injury concerns are real, as well as the presence of Dez Bryant. However, the upside is too good to ignore in the fifth round of this contest.

6.10 – Donald Brown, RB, IND – It seems that I’m drafting Donald Brown in every league so far this season. I think he presents an incredible value in the sixth round, as he will be a three-down back who gets most of the goal line work.

The new coaching staff hasn’t taken a liking to his backup Delone Carter, so it looks as if Donald Brown will get a majority of the touches in the Indianapolis backfield this season.

I am a believer in Andrew Luck and his ability to lead this offense from Day 1. Donald Brown will get way more scoring opportunities this season than he did last year, so don’t be surprised when you see Brown score 10-plus TDs in 2012.

While he fits the bill as a high-upside guy (let’s not forget that he was a first-round pick in the NFL draft three years ago), I actually think he’s a pretty safe player for his draft position, too.

I planned on going with a running back by committee for my RB2 slot, but I have a feeling that I’ll be starting Donald Brown most weeks.

 7.03 – Philip Rivers, QB, SDC – Philip Rivers is undervalued after his poor showing in the 2011 season. His 20 interceptions was a career high, but we’ll see Philip Rivers bounce back to produce top-five numbers in 2012.

Why? It’s mostly because of the glowing camp reports saying that Antonio Gates is healthy and looks as strong as ever.

But we shouldn’t overlook the addition of Eddie Royal, who has been praised in camp for his ability to work the slot (you will also notice that I drafted Eddie Royal late, as I feel he is vastly undervalued as a safety valve in a high-octane offense).

Ryan Mathews is likely out for the first two weeks, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him miss more than two games this season. The result will be Philip Rivers throwing more passes. Since we aren’t penalized for interceptions in this contest, Rivers has the weapons and could get enough attempts to reach his career highs of 34 TDs and 4,710 passing yards.

8.10 – Austin Collie, WR, IND – When you think of high upside, you may not think of Austin Collie. But, he’s done it before. He was the No. 1 WR through the first six weeks of the 2010 campaign before a concussion cut his season short.

Those concussion issue has reared its ugly head once again, as Collie was diagnosed with a concussion in his last preseason game.

The injury risks are very real with Collie, but he’s developed chemistry with Andrew Luck. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has said repeatedly that this will be a passing offense.

So with an aging Reggie Wayne on one side, Collie will be Luck’s go-to target if he is healthy. If Collie plays all sixteen games, it would be criminal to have him as my WR4.

9.03 – Ryan Williams, RB, ARI – Beanie Wells had a decent year last season, but I have little confidence in his ability to stay healthy and run the ball effectively.

Williams’ recovery from his torn patellar tendon last season has gone swimmingly, and he has shown the same quickness and lateral agility in preseason that caused the Cardinals to draft him in the first round.

If Williams gets a majority of the carries in this backfield, he has the talent to be a top-10 fantasy RB.

10.10 – Michael Bush, RB, CHI – As you can see, I’m using the strategy where I get a bunch of mid- to late-round RBs in efforts to find the one who breaks out. At this point in the draft, I’m looking for backup/timeshare RBs with great talent. If there is an injury in front of them, there’s no doubt that they will be productive fantasy starters.

As for Michael Bush, he’s already getting all of the goal line looks in Chicago, so any increase in snaps would make him fantasy starter-worthy.

As for the final 10 picks of this mock draft, I won’t get into details of why I picked those particular players.

The names of the players that I selected in the later rounds aren’t really the subject of this article. It’s more about the qualities that I’m looking for in a player.

In short, I’m looking for late-round players who match one or more of these qualities:

1. Elite talent (drafted in the first couple of rounds of the NFL draft)
2. Plays in a great offense
3. An injury/demotion away from being in a historically productive fantasy situation
4. Players with little history—we know what Santana Moss, Kellen Winslow, etc. will do. We’re looking for home runs that could potentially be fantasy stars.

By now, you should sense the theme of this article. When in doubt, draft for upside in high-stakes competitions.

Please feel free to ask any questions, critique the strategy, rate the best teams or post any other thoughts in the comments section below.


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