The key to winning your fantasy football league is to be prepared for your fantasy draft and to have a good idea of what players will be available when your pick rolls around.
An independent mock draft is a good way to gauge the relative values of fantasy players and a good tool to assist you in ranking players and deciding tiers. But the results will always be skewed if you are making every pick. In order to do more authentic research, I've assembled a team of top Bleacher Report writers to conduct a fantasy football mock draft.
The contributors to this mock draft are experienced fantasy veterans and regularly report on an assortment of NFL teams. This yielded a variety of diverse perspectives and interesting debates. The writers, in draft order, are:
We conducted six rounds in snake format, assuming ESPN standard scoring with one QB, two RB, two WR, one FLEX, one TE, and one TEAM DEFENSE. Included with each draft pick is commentary from the contributor that made the selection.
At the end of each round is a set of notes from the contributors regarding that round of action, including opinions on other's picks, draft strategy, and NFL predictions.
The debates were very extensive, and only a fraction of the commentary was reproduced in this article.
1. Team Schottey: Maurice Jones-Drew (RB-JAX) Although Adrian Peterson is the consensus top pick, Jones-Drew is a valuable fantasy starter in his own right—along with being much more durable. It's a fantasy league, this pick will pay dividends when Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe start paving the way.
2. Team Stashin: Adrian Peterson (RB-MIN) This is the obvious pick and no explanation is really needed for this one. AP is a stud workhorse and feature back who is quick as lightning.
3. Team Lorge: Steve Slaton (RB-HOU) Slaton was only 56 total yards behind Matt Forte last season with 61 less touches. In an increased role, "Mr. Uh-Oh" is ready to explode in 2009. I'm still scratching my head on how he was a late third round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, but I'll take him third every time in 2009 Fantasy Drafts.
4. Team Lester: Michaal Turner (RB-ATL) Turner was an absolute beast in his first year as a feature back. I expect his TD numbers to take a step back with the addition of Tony Gonzalez, but he should easily be able to produce 1,500-plus total yards and 12-plus TD.
5. Team Bedinger: DeAngelo Williams (RB-CAR) Last year, Williams split time with high-impact rookie Jonathan Stewart and still rushed for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Panthers will not veer away from their run-first style offense, and I think Williams will have another huge year.
6. Team Waddell: Matt Forte (RB-CHI) The 1,238 yards and 12 total touchdowns that Forte posted last year should increase this year with the addition of a gun-slinging quarterback in Jay Cutler commanding the air. Additionally, Forte’s sub-par 3.9 yards-per-carry should increase as defenses won’t be able to key in on the running game with a true down field threat tossing passes. There is always a fear of a sophomore slump, and recent injury news, but Forte is the only rushing option in Chicago and will build upon his great rookie season.
7. Team Winslow: Chris Johnson (RB-TEN) Johnson was one of the most exciting players to watch last year and with 1,488 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns as a rookie sharing carries, his fantasy production should only improve. He caught a lot of swing passes and screens last season and had a total of 43 receptions, so he's a good value in point-per-reception leagues as well.
8. Team Williams: Tom Brady (QB-NE) Consternation abounds in the Williams' Camp as Johnson had been high up on the list. With the eighth pick, the Team Williams picks quarterback Tom Brady. While normally one would take a running back in the first round, after consideration of his recovery from injury and past performance, Brady was worth more points than the remaining running backs.
9. Team Anderson: Stephen Jackson (RB-STL) With most of the elite running backs gone, it comes down to the best players on the board. Drew Brees looks like the cream of the crop at quaterback, Stephen Jackson is solid with great potential to be a top five pick, and there's several top flight receivers left. In the end, Team Anderson goes with Jackson who has top 10 touchdown potential and is an easy 1,000 yard rusher. Throw in 400 or so receiving yards and Jackson could turn out to be a steal.
10. Team Nash: Drew Brees (QB-NO) With the 10th pick, you have to go with Brees. Tomlinson would be a nice move too, but his late injury may or may not prove to be an issue this season and that uncertainty makes Brees the best option here. He's been a fantasy juggernaut since arriving in New Orleans—never failing to put up monster numbers, including over 5,000 yards last season with an offense that saw its most elite players spending a majority of time on the injury list. Some could take issue with Brees being picked before Payton Manning, but his durability, productivity, and fantasy scoring potential is hard to overlook.
11. Team Harkey: Frank Gore (RB-SF) With the 11th Pick in the 2009 Bleacher Report Writers' Draft, GM John Harkey selects Frank Gore! So much for the WR/WR strategy that I had thought would come into play this late in the first round. You simply can't ignore the value of a workhorse back like Gore slipping to the bottom. The 49ers feature back has no competition for playing time or goal line carries. New offensive coordinator, Jimmy Raye, loves to pound the rock and Gore will be his weapon of choice all year long. Gore may not have the flash and dazzle of other top backs, but he does have consistency. Since becoming the 49ers feature back in 2006, Gore has averaged 1,277 yards rushing, 431 yards receiving and eight touchdowns per season. Gore's ankle should be completely healed and I expect a healthy Gore to command 20-plus touches per game in a run heavy offense with similar numbers to his career averages.
12. Team Crowe: Larry Fitzgerald (WR-ARI) Drafting last...always fun. Interesting draft so far. Did we skip the first round? MJD going first? Did I miss about 13 picks? Anyway, with the last pick in the first round, Sean Crowe (trademark) selects Larry Fitzgerald. It's a new NFL. Running backs split carries, which reduces the value of late first round running backs. Fitzgerald is a better value than any running back at this spot. He's good for an easy 100 catches, and easier 1,400 yards, and 10-12 touchdowns.
First Round Notes
Nathan Waddel: Love 1.6 Forte—Might be my pick, but you can't overstate the value and 1.9 Steven Jackson—The lowest I've seen him go in any mock this year. Great value. Hate 1.3 Slaton—There's no way Slaton finishes top five in any scoring format and 1.8 Chris Johnson —With this pick, he needs to be a top six running draft. He's in a timeshare and in a league without PPR, he has late first round value. But it's the least of my "hates".
John Lorge: Slaton was the seventh best back in the scoring system we're playing in and he was 15 fantasy points away from being top five...What round were Turner, Williams, Forte, and T-Jones drafted last year (all top five scorers)? Slaton will have an increased work load this year and his team is better. If he plays 16 games and finishes seventh in fantasy scoring again it is a great pick.
Kyle Winslow: I like the Steve Slaton pick, even if it is a slight reach. The Texans offense looked like it was on the verge of being elite last year, and I think if they can limit their mistakes this year, Slaton and Andre Johnson are going to have huge years. Matt Forte is my favorite pick, I would have drafted him with the first overall pick if I'd had it.
John Harkey: Tom Brady selection at 1.08 is not only a reach, but a risk. We are only scoring four points for passing touchdowns in this mock league. This makes Brady a huge reach at No. 8 in the first round with feature backs and elite wideouts still on the board.
Jonathan Williams: Brady is not a reach. He has never been a mobile quarterback. I suspect had the Patriots really had concerns about him they would have hung onto Cassel. This is the same team that dropped Bledsoe for Brady in a similar situation. And to my understanding, Randy Moss still plays on the team.
12. Team Crowe: LaDainian Tomlinson (RB-SD) What? Back on the clock? What the crap!?!?! With the first pick of the second round, I'm drafting a little known running back named LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson had an off season last year, and still ended up with 1,300 all purpose yards and nine touchdowns. Last season, his average draft position was 1.8. This season, I'm getting him 13th. I expect him to play with a chip on his shoulder all year because of this.
11. Team Harkey: Andre Johnson (WR-HOU) In summary, I found no reason to take a chance on drafting a veteran running back with more question marks than answers. Last season was a banner year for Andre Johnson with production in the 1,500-plus yard range and eight touchdowns. Johnson trailed Fitzgerald by a very close margin in total fantasy points and actually ranked higher in PPR leagues. I will take this season No. 18 ranked wideout and pray that Matt Schaub can stay healthy for 16 games.
10. Team Nash: Brandon Jacobs (RB-NYG) Jacobs is a risky pick, having missed eight games in the last two-years, but he also has 21 touchdowns in that time—including 15 last season. With Derrick Ward gone, Jacobs will see more carries in 2009. More carries could spell increased production. Does it also mean more injury possibilities? Sure, but if he stays healthy, the reward will be worth the risk.
9. Team Anderson: Randy Moss (WR-NE) Moss will have Brady back to throw him the ball and let's not forget last time that allowed him to snag over 20 touchdowns. Moss is good for 1,000 yards receiving and 10-12 touchdowns regardless, so the pick here isn't that hard especially in points-per-reception leagues.
8. Team Williams: Marion Barber III (RB-DAL) Barber had a tough season last year with the injuries and the implosion of his team in the latter half of the season. Team Williams will rely on Barber to have some resurgence in the platoon with Dallas. It should offer his somewhat fragile frame some protection. His touchdown totals should be up this season.
7. Team Winslow: Brian Westbrook (RB-PHI) Although this pick comes with some injury concerns, Westbrook's upside as a runner and receiver out of the back field is too good to pass up. But it's now mandatory that I use a late round pick to handcuff this pick with his likely backup, rookie running back LeSean McCoy.
6. Team Waddell: Clinton Portis (RB-WAS) Portis is one of the few true feature backs remaining in the league. Portis has carried the ball over 320 every season he's been a Redskin, save for 2006 when he only played eight games due to injury. A running back must have opportunities to produce, and Portis gets plenty of chances. There is a cause for concern; however, that following his 352 carry season in 2005, he missed eight games the following season, lending credence to the theory of running back break down following a season of 340-plus carries. But I'm not in the business of predicting injuries. Seeing Portis bounce back in 2007 and 2008 should give comfort to drafters relying on him to carry their squads for 2009. If the offensive line can keep it together and avoid injuries, Portis should be in for another top 10 performance.
5. Team Bedinger: Calvin Johnson (WR-DET) I was hoping he would still be on the board, and here he is...Team Bedinger takes Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson put up big numbers in his second year as a professional, and should continue to get even better now that Daunte Culpepper has gotten into the swing of things again. I fully expect him to be a fantasy steal much like Fitzgerald of 2008.
4. Team Lester: Steve Smith (WR-CAR) Smith is a game-changing wide receiver that can score on any play. He put up huge numbers last year despite a two-game suspension and spotty quarterback play.
3. Team Lorge: Reggie Wayne (WR-IND) As Manning's clear-cut No. 1, Wayne should get plenty of looks this year. The Colts still have enough talent on offense to keep defenses from loading up on Wayne. 100-plus catches are not out of the question.
2. Team Stashin: Peyton Manning (QB-IND) It's impossible for me to pass up Manning, who has thrown for over 4,000 yards in nine of the past 10 seasons. I know that the loss of Marvin Harrison could impact him, but with Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, and Dallas Clark, there is plenty of fire power left for him to throw to. I figure I can pretty much mark him down for 4,000 yards and 28-plus touchdowns.
1. Team Schottey: Anquan Boldin (WR-ARI) When push comes to shove, Boldin isn't Larry Fitzgerald, but he's still one of a top wide receivers in the NFL. I expect more explosiveness out of the Cardinals' offense in '09. Between teams needing to shade toward Fitzgerald and teams needing to add another defender to stop Chris "Beanie" Wells, Boldin will find room.
Second Round Notes
Ryan Lester: I wouldn't call MB3 fragile like his former Gopher counterpart (Maroney). I think he plays so physical that he's bound to get banged up a bit.
John Harkey: I'm curious to see where the two most coveted "handcuffs" come off the board. Sproles and McCoy are playing behind two fragile veterans and I suspect they will command high draft values this season. The real question is whether Sean and Kyle are willing to pony up for an insurance policy for their prized ponies or will they just sit back and watch some other team draft these handcuffs and hold them hostage later in the season? Muah ha ha ha...
John Harkey: Is Michael Vick still available?
John Lorge: You stole my joke! I was waiting till the third round to use it.
1. Team Schottey: Wes Welker (WR-NE) Let's not forget this is a PPR league. Welker has more receptions in the past two years than any other receiver. On top of that, Welker will benefit from having Brady back. Welker fell off the map with only three TD in '08 but, I expect that to inflate to 68 touchdowns in '09.
2. Team Stashin: Ryan Grant (RB-GB) Only four touchdowns? Really? I just don't buy that as being the norm for him, especially after having scored eight the year before in limited duty. I'm looking for him to really breakout this season and solidify me at running back.
3. Team Lorge: Greg Jennings (WR-GB) I was looking for a healthy player with good scoring potential. There is a small gap in the running back value with this pick so Jennings is the fit. He hasn't reached his potential yet and now that Jennings and Aaron Rodgers have some on-field chemistry I expect more deep touchdowns.
4. Team Lester: Ronnie Brown (RB-MIA) I debated between Smith and Brown in round two, so I was happy to see him come back to me. He was the best running back in the league not named LT before he went down with a knee injury on a freak play, making a tackle on an interception. He was solid last year despite the limited recovery time. Another year removed and he should get his explosiveness back.
5. Team Bedinger: Aaron Rodgers (QB-GB) Now that I have already selected a premiere running back and receiver in DeAngelo Williams and Calvin Johnson, I will now take my quarterback. With the fifth pick in the third round, Team Bedinger selects Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is a dual threat at quarterback who is really on the rise and with the group of players around him in Green Bay, I think he will have a huge season.
6. Team Waddell: Roddy White (WR-ATL) With the backfield occupied by Matt Forte and Clinton Portis, it's time Team Waddell focuses on guys that catch and make big plays. With the sixth selection in the third round, Team Waddell selects Roddy White. White finally "arrived" last season finishing the season ahead of big name receivers like Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Marshall. White ended 2008 with 88 catches, 1,382 yards, and seven touchdowns. The addition of Tony Gonzalez, and the return of Michael Turner, will force defenses to account for a playmaker at every level of the field, providing White with plenty of one-on-one opportunities to make big plays. And this league is all about making big plays. As Matt Ryan continues his development, White's numbers should only increase along with quickly gaining status as an elite receiver in the NFL. Look for White to finish in the top seven of fantasy receivers, and if all goes well, he may just crack the top five, and likely won't relinquish that spot for many years to come.
7. Team Winslow: Joseph Addai (RB-IND) I wanted to draft a receiver here, specifically Jennings or White, but the run on wideouts has forced me to fill my FLEX position and take a third running back. Addai struggled last year, but the Colts couldn't run their patented "stretch" play, while Manning recovered from knee surgery. I expect Addai to rebound this year behind a healthier quarterback and a more experienced offensive line.
8. Team Williams: Tim Hightower (RB-ARI) While he struggled late in the season, Tim Hightower should be a good part of a dangerous tandem with Wells.
9. Team Anderson: Phillip Rivers (QB-SD) Rivers is coming off a 34 touchdown and 4,000 yard performance last year. He continues to improve each year and has several good targets and a solid ground game to support him.
10. Team Nash: Terrell Owens (WR-BUF) Say what you will about the guy and his antics, Owens has produced big numbers everywhere he has landed. Last season, with the Cowboys, he managed over a 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns—not bad for a guy who didn't feel he was targeted enough by his quarterback. He takes a bit of a step down from Romo in Trent Edwards, but T.O.'s still a physically gifted athlete at 36. He will have a legitimate No. 3 in Lee Evans to limit the possibility of a double-team, you have to feel pretty confident that his trend of double-digit touchdowns and 1,000 yards receiving is a good risk to take. A wide receiver over a running back suits me just fine. Committees are the trend in the NFL and there are plenty of good possibilities still left at running back.
11. Team Harkey: Marques Colston (WR-NO) Colston tore his thumb ligaments during the first week of the '08 season causing him to miss five games (and act as a decoy for a 6th). Despite the missed time, Colston still put up 760 yards and five touchdowns over the remaining 10 games. This translates to 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns over the course of a full season, which is slightly under his career average. In recent history, the Saints' best defense has been a high powered offense and 2009 should be no different. Drew Brees will be throwing early and often as the Saints look to outscore opponents on a weekly basis. If Colston can stay healthy, he will see plenty of targets as the Saints WR1 and has top end potential to be a top five fantasy wideout.
12. Team Crowe: Matt Cassel (QB-KC) This may be a little early, but one of the problems with drafting last is that you go two full rounds between picks, so you end up reaching a little to get the guys you want. Cassel was pretty good with the Patriots last season and he got progressively better as the season went on. Tyler Thigpen, a guy who's barely an NFL quarterback, managed to throw for 18 touchdowns in only 11 starts in the Chiefs' offense last season. The sky's the limit for Cassel, who may not have the weapons he had in New England, but now has a year of experience.
Third Round Notes
Nathan Waddell: Hate 3.1 Welker—The guy has value even in non PPR leagues, but it's late fourth round value. 3.8 Hightower—He's still in a timeshare, but now with a talent back. He'll fight for playing time, and might get some GL carries. But with so many more talented options available, why now? He would have been available in the seventh round. 3.12 Cassel —Sorry man, but this is my most "hated" pick. With so many truly elite quarterback options available, why spend the third rounder on a guy that is available in round nine, or at worst round seven? New team, no offensive line, shoddy running game, and only one wide receiver who only holds on to the ball some of the time. It just doesn't add up to a guy that is, on this fantasy team at least, expected to be the sixth best fantasy quarterback as indicated by the pick. Just seems like a very steep price to pay in value.
John Crowe: Of the quarterbacks still available, let me hit them one at at time: Warner: Hate old quarterbacks, McNabb: Too inconsistent game to game, Romo: My candidate for biggest bust (check his numbers without TO), Ryan: Sophomore slump, Schaub: The french call him "Fraageelay", Cutler: No offensive line, Palmer: Bengals, Roethlesberger: He's just been hit too many times, and the effects of a long last season could hurt him this year. Of the quarterbacks left, he's the only one I considered. So, I liked Cassel. I don't like him in the third round, but here we are. That said, his forced rumble ranking take into account his early season struggles (he had a little rust to shake off, having not played since high school). When he shook off the rust, he was one of the three best fantasy quarterbacks in the NFL. Look at his November/December splits: 2331 yards, 62 percent completion percentage, 14 touchdowns, five interceptions (only one in December), two rushing touchdowns, 190 rushing yards. To me, those numbers are worth a fourth round gamble. So, yes, a reach. But not a completely insane one. Only a slightly insane one.
Michael Schottey: Um...Cutler no O-line? Are we forgetting Orlando Pace and Kevin Shaffer not to mention first round pick Chris Williams coming back from last year's injury.
Sayre Bedinger: Cutler has no O-line. Orlando Pace and Kevin Shaffer were cut from the Rams and Browns respectively for a reason. Chris Williams may be coming back from an injury, but he is unproven.
Michael Schottey: Both were cap casualties. Saving each of their teams over seven million. Orlando Pace, in his prime was one of the top three tackles in the history of the game. When healthy, he is still among the best. Chris Williams should end up starting on the right side making Shaffer one of the top swing tackles in the league. Not to mention Olin Kreutz is a top center and Frank Omiyale is a great young prospect
Kyle Winslow: The Matt Cassell pick appears to be the biggest gamble so far, but he does have a big wide receiver in Bowe to throw to, and he single-handed won my fantasy league for me last year, so I see the appeal.
John Harkey: The Hightower selection at 3.08 is by far the worst value of the draft. Hightower barely cracks the top 100 in most fantasy rankings and his ADP is in the 100-plus range. Furthermore, he's not even the best running back on his team! The Cards drafted Wells in the first round for a reason and you better believe he will be the No. 1 running back in Arizona. Hightower could've been drafted three maybe, four rounds later without much worry. To select Hightower at No. 32 overall is a complete waste of a pick. You better hope that Beanie blows out his knee again for Hightower to have any chance at being something more than a touchdown vulture at best.
Jonathan Williams: Hightower is a reach. However, Beanie Wells was only an okay running back and he was not even the best one in college last year. So he was picked high, if you call the second last pick in round one high, but it was in a very weak year for running backs. I think it takes time for rookies to take over from veterans, and while I think Hightower ran down at the end of the season I thought he had a respectable season.
12. Team Crowe: Willie Parker (RB-PIT) Willie Parker struggled with injuries last season, but I'm expecting a huge bounce-back year from the normally steady running back. Even with his disappointing year, his three year averages are first or second round worthy: 1,200 yards, seven touchdowns. Sounds pretty good for a fourth round running back
11. Team Harkey: Kevin Smith (RB-DET) Kevin Smith is one of the only remaining running backs with a true feature back role. Last season, Smith flew under the radar due to a dreadfully slow start as an NFL rookie. However, Smith quietly battled his way through the season starting 12 games and totaling just under 1,000 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns. More importantly, Smith only dropped the rock once all year long. That late season push has left the second year back with a renewed sense of confidence. Earlier this year, Kevin Smith predicted a playoff appearance for the Detroit Lions in 2009. While I certainly don't agree with this prediction, I like Smith's confidence and attitude. Smith should continue to flourish in Detroit's zone blocking scheme and I project him to total around 1,500 all purpose yards and eight touchdowns.
10. Team Nash: Pierre Thomas (RB-NO) Let's face it, Reggie Bush is not now, nor is he ever likely to be, an every-down back. He's a great punt/kick return man and is awesome for anyone looking to pick up points in a PPR league; however, this is not that type of league. That said, Pierre Thomas showed that he has the skills to pay the bills. From week 10 onward, Thomas racked up 500-plus yards (5.1. ypc) and six scores. With Deuce long gone and the Saints looking to continue their potent offense of 2008, Pierre will likely have the backfield all to himself and that means fantasy gold.
9. Team Anderson: Thomas Jones (RB-NYJ) Team Anderson needs a second running back, but there are few options to choose from here. The best remaining is Thomas Jones who rushed for 1,300 yards and caught for 200 with 15 total touchdowns. He might drop off due to the addition of draft pick Shonn Greene, who could see plenty of red zone action, but Jones is the best RB left on the board.
8. Team Williams: TJ Houshmandzadeh (WR-SEA) After a good season on a bad Bengals team, Houshmandzadeh will be even better this season. The Seahawks had a down year last year, but it appears to be more of a hiccup then a trend. With both Matt Hasselbeck and Nate Burleson back in the lineup, the team should return to a more .500 record this season. This should mean good things for Houshmandzadeh.
7. Team Winslow: DeSean Jackson (WR-PHI) With three running backs on my team, I'm in dire need of a wide receiver here in round four. There are some intriguing prospects still on the board, but Jackson has a good offense around him, a new first round pick to draw the coverage away from him, and a high caliber quarterback throwing to him.
6. Team Waddell: Dwayne Bowe (WR-KC) The value is great as Bowe's ADP is 3.06 and he's the ninth best wide receiver on my board. But I'm still not overly thrilled with the selection considering all of the changes occurring in Chiefs Country. Bowe racked up 1,022 yards and seven touchdowns after catching 86 balls last year. There's no reason to think he can't reach 100 receptions this year with consistent and competent quarterback play from Matt Cassel. While he is not Larry Fitzgerald, Bowe may morph into the poor man's Fitzgerald under the tutelage of new head coach Todd Haley. Bowe had an issue with drops last year that cost the Chiefs at least one victory. If Bowe can get the issues with his stone hands worked out this offseason, he should be able to post at least 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns as the only receiving option in Kansas City, making this mid fourth round selection seem like a steal.
5. Team Bedinger: Jason Witten (TE-DAL) Witten has been a stud the last couple of years, and I do not even feel he reached his full potential as a receiver with Owens in the mix. Now that Owens is gone, Witten is the man in Dallas. He will be a fantasy beast at TE if he stays healthy.
4. Team Lester: Roy Williams (WR-DAL) With Owens exiled to the frozen tundra that is Buffalo, Roy Williams gets a crack at the No. 1 wide receiver position for the Dallas Cowboys. Having a full season with a quarterback with a pulse should make him a top 15 wide receiver and a solid WR2.
3. Team Lorge: Marshawn Lynch (RB-BUF) Right now Lynch is sitting on a three game suspension, but I think he has a good chance of getting that reduced to one or two games. Lynch would be a second round pick if he wasn't suspended. When he returns to the Bills, he won't see the eight man in the box type of looks he did last season with defenses focused on stopping the deep pass. Lynch could rack up 1,100-plus yards in the 13 games he's projected to play.
2. Team Stashin: Brandon Marshall (WR-DEN) I know all the questions surrounding him. Can he produce without Jay Cutler? Will he still be a Bronco? Will he stay on the field? The truth of the matter is that the past two seasons, all he has done is produced. With what he's done in the past, he's worth the slight risk here.
1. Team Schottey: Jay Cutler (QB-CHI) Without a legit No. 1 receiver, Cutler isn't a great fantasy option. Add into that the unfriendly confines of Soldier Field and the first time in a season full of cold, windy Chicago weather, there's a question mark here. However, this pick is big risk, big reward. If reports out of Chicago are true, the offense looks great already and the Bears are linked with several big time wide receivers on the market. If Chicago is a buyer at the trade deadline (or sooner), Cutler could have great numbers down the stretch.
Fourth Round Notes
Sean Crowe: I like Bowe a lot. I think he and Cassel will work well together. I also like the fact that the Chiefs are going to run an extremely quarterback-friendly offense.
Kyle Winslow: The trend that I'm really noticing though: Get your wide receivers early. Pierre Thomas and Thomas Jones just went off the board, and those are solid running backs. I can't predict with confidence that those guys are going to be significantly less valuable than some of the other backs that went in the late first and early second round, but the value at wide receiver here in round four is not nearly the same. I think it's a must to take a receiver in one of the first two rounds this year.
1. Team Schottey: Donovan McNabb (QB-Phi) Everyone went crazy with post-draft predictions of the Eagles' offense. Then...it went silent. Sure McNabb is inconsistent, but a retooled offensive line could do a lot to change that. Maclin, Jackson, and Kevin Curtis should spread the field enough to keep teams out of zone coverage. Meanwhile, McNabb has a bunch of safety valves in Brent Celek, Cornelius Ingram, Brian Westbrook, and LeSean McCoy.
2. Team Stashin: Darren McFadden (RB-OAK) He struggled in his rookie season, but so did the entire Oakland Raiders. He should be the man in the Raiders' backfield, so I like the gamble here for my FLEX spot. He's got the potential to rush for 1,000 yards and constantly find the end zone. If JaMarcus Russell is the starting quarterback, the team is going to need to focus on the run even more to alleviate the pressure on him, giving him even more chance for success.
3. Team Lorge: Vincent Jackson (WR-SD) Well with McNabb and McFadden off the board there go my top two guys. There are a lot of question marks on the board right now and while Jackson might miss a game or two with a DUI, I like him as Rivers' No. 1 target. Jackson is entering a contract year which means get money and he is going to do exactly that, as one of the most promising young receivers in the NFL. I expect Jackson to have a legit shot at double digit touchdowns and hopefully his catches can rise into the 70-plus area.
4. Team Lester: Santonio Holmes (WR-PIT) I was hoping Santonio Holmes would be available. With Steve Smith and Roy Williams, and now Holmes, I feel I have an elite receiver corps.
5. Team Bedinger: Knowshon Moreno (RB-DEN) I had to make a homer pick, although I do think Moreno will light it up for the Broncos this year. He has risen to the top of the depth chart already, and many (including myself) are projecting him as the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. He doesn't have great speed, but he is elusive and does everything well, he blocks, catches, and finishes runs. He will be a big pickup if he can stay healthy.
6. Team Waddell: Reggie Bush (RB-NO) Oh wait, this isn't a PPR league. Doesn't matter. Bush is flat out dominant in any format. Playing only ten games last season, Bush put up 844 total yards and six touchdowns. Solid numbers if you ask me. Sure, Bush is an injury risk. He's coming off micro-fracture surgery and his progress must be monitored closely during training camp. But his recovery is looking solid and he should be on the field from day one. For 2009, I have him looking good with 1,200 total yards and 10 total touchdowns. And those projections are on the conservative side. Can't get much better for a FLEX player.
7. Team Winslow: Anthony Gonzalez (WR-IND) I missed out on the elite receivers by taking running backs in the first three rounds, but Gonzalez is a young player taking the place of an elite receiver. Gonzalez was a better player than aging Marvin Harrison last year, and now that he has taken over the starting role, his fantasy numbers should benefit significantly.
8. Team Williams: Chad Ochocinco (WR-CIN) After a terrible season last year Ochocinco will be expected to pick up the slack against some tough opposition. Even with that, he still can get over 1,000 receiving yards as long as Palmer is able to sling the ball to him. While he might be an edgy pick, I think with the arrival of Laveranues Coles, there is a chance that the Bengals can at least be competent.
9. Team Anderson: Tony Gonzalez (TE-ATL) Gonzalez put up over 1,000 yards last year along with 10 touchdowns, making him a valuable receiver. This year he is on a better team in Atlanta and so the only question is his age. No drop off last year despite being well over 30. That's a gamble I'll make with the numbers he put up last season.
10. Team Nash: Bernard Berrian (WR-MIN) Whether or not the infamous No. 4 chooses to play in Minnesota next season, Berrian has already proved that he is capable of holding his own on the field—despite the presence of uber-rusher Adrian Peterson and the lack of a true No. 1 at quarterback. If Favre makes an appearance in Minnesota this season, Berrian could be primed for a breakout year at wide receiver, as he excels at running the deep route (he had 14 catches of 20 or more yards last season). Further, despite limited targets (48), Berrian still managed to top 900-plus yards for his second year in a row. To put it into perspective, Anquan Boldin was targeted almost twice as many times and accumulated only 74 more receiving yards. The Vikings have one of the more favorable schedules heading into next season and Berrian could reap huge benefits in this, his fourth, season.
11. Team Harkey: Kurt Warner (QB-ARI) Team Harkey travels to a local retirement home in central Arizona to offer a one-year contract to old man Kurt Warner. At this point in the draft, there are still plenty of quaterbacks on the board, but the value of Warner in round five was hard to pass up. Warner is old, no doubt about it. However, it doesn't take a young gun to find success in the potent Cardinals' offense. Look no further than his cast of All Pro wideouts, Fitzgerald and Boldin. These two receivers are absolute beasts on the field. They swallow up everything Warner feeds them in the red zone. And, don't forget Breaston who is coming into his own as a quality WR3. The Cardinals play in a division with some of the weaker defenses in the NFL, so I fully expect a few cake games for the old man to pad his stats (namely Rams/49ers). Drafting Warner means that I will need to invest another mid round pick on a quality backup in case the old man goes down mid-season, but that is fine with me.
12. Team Crowe: Chris Wells (RB -ARI) Team Crowe (who's draft room has been empty since it revolted over Sean's demanding to take Matt Cassel in the third round), selects Arizona running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. Wells had 207 carries for 1,197 yards (5.8 avg) and eight touchdowns last year for the Buckeyes. And let's face it, you don't draft a running back into the first round so you can backup Tim Hightower. This pick is about value. A backup running back (especially when L.T. is getting up there in age and he's my No. 1) was good value here.
Fifth Round Notes
John Harkey: Jon Gruden was in the draft room with Schottey and convinced him it was a good idea to take as many quarterbacks as possible.
Michael Schottey: (regarding taking back-to-back quarterbacks) 1. I get to cover my backside if I'm wrong and either one falters 2. Later on in the season, if they're both performing well, one will make great trade bait. 3. In case of injury (I was stuck with Brady last season) I still have a top quarterback.
John Harkey: Team Harkey suggests that Crowe monopolized the Kansas City arsenal of quarterbacks by pulling off an unprecedented double handcuff and drafting both Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle.
John Lorge: Great pick Waddell. I considered taking him with my pick. Bush is a monster when healthy and I don't buy into all of this talk that Thomas will be running the show in NO. Bush is one of the most talented ball carriers in the history of football and you must find a way to get the rock in his hands. He will also give you a nice points boost with the occasional punt return touchdown
Ryan Lester: Warner has a cushy playoff schedule.
John Lorge: I finally saw The Hangover and if you're looking for something to do this weekend that's it; funniest movie I've seen since Pineapple Express.
Michael Schottey: The Hangover is the funniest movie I've ever seen. The only time I remember crying from laughing so hard was 40-Year Old Virgin.
12. Team Crowe: Lee Evans (WR-BUF) Evans has forever been by himself in Buffalo, yet he still managed to fight through double and triple teams to earn over 1,000 yards in two of the last three seasons. With T.O. drawing the double-teams this season, I expect a breakout year from Evans.
11. Team Harkey: Antonio Gates (TE-SD) Gates was plagued by a toe injury, which lingered throughout the '08 season. Despite the lingering injury, Gates still managed to put up 700 yards and eight touchdowns. This was good enough for fourth place amongst TE's in '08. In fact, the margin between Gates and second ranked tight ends (Witten and Clark) was only three points. Not bad for an off-year. The past is the past and Gates will be back to full health in '09. I'm a bit shocked that Gates slipped this far and consider this pick highway robbery in round six. I fully expect Gates to bounce back with a huge '09 season ranked at the top of the tight end class.
10. Team Nash: Jonathan Stewart (RB-CAR) Despite the fact that he was in a time share with DeAngelo Williams last season, Stewart still managed to break loose for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. Carolina won't be changing its game plan much, so I expect to see the running game continue to be the primary focus. This means Stewart will, potentially, reach the 1,000 yard rushing mark yet again. This is the third back I will have taken, but it's always a good bet to have an alternate as you can never be certain how injuries or playing time will factor into your fantasy season.
9. Team Anderson: Santana Moss (WR-WAS) Team Anderson badly needs a receiver here and with a few solid options, I'm debating between Santana Moss, Antonio Bryant, and Eddie Royal. Royal is tempting because he put up big numbers as a rookie, but the Broncos offense is going to be considerably less explosive. Bryant had the best numbers last year, but his quarterback situation is in flux. Moss will always get around 70 catches and close to 1,000 yards so I'll go with him.
8. Team Williams: Dallas Clark (TE-IND) Team Williams has filled out most of its starting roster. With that in mind, with their sixth round selection, Team Williams will take tight end Dallas Clark. He has always been a significant part of the Colts' offense, and while his production fell off last season, it would be reasonable to expect him to at least have decent numbers. He should be a nice tight end option this year.
7. Team Winslow: Tony Romo (QB-DAL) Seems like everybody thinks Romo will be a bust this season now that Owens has moved on, and I'm a little weary too. But his potential value at this spot is great even if he approaches the production of recent seasons. Romo still has some big targets to throw to in Witten, Roy Williams, and Patrick Crayton.
6. Team Waddell: Braylon Edwards (WR-CLE) Team Waddell is in a bit of a pickle. And most of the blame falls on Team Schotty for unnecessarily taking two top quarterbacks earlier in this draft, depriving my team of the opportunity to have a decent signal caller. Alas, the quarterback value isn't there right now, so we'll just move on to backup players. Edwards developed a case of Stonehanditis last season, but still is an elite talent. Brady Quinn will start at quarterback for the Browns, which is great news for Edwards, as Quinn's bread and butter is the intermediate passing game. Look for Edwards to post upwards of 1,000 yards and at least eight touchdowns this season as the Browns claw their way back to mediocrity.
5. Team Bedinger: Eddie Royal (WR-DEN) Royal is expected to fill a "Wes Welker" type role for Denver this year, and could be a huge benefactor of the system switch with the Broncos. He is undoubtedly the best receiver available at this point, and I need a solid 8-10 points-per-week for my partner Calvin Johnson.
4. Team Lester: Carson Palmer (QB-CIN) There are still good quarterbacks out there. I will go the quarterback route and take Carson Palmer.
3. Team Lorge: Donald Brown (RB-IND) I am taking Donald Brown for two reasons: 1. the Colts wouldn't have selected Brown if they weren't going to use him. 2. I Do Not think Addai will be healthy for 16 games. Every year rookie backs produce and I think Brown has the highest floor of the bunch because he won't be fighting with eight backs like Moreno. He is also in a run-firendly system unlike Wells.
2. Team Stashin: Jericho Cotchery (WR-NYJ) A toss-up between wide receivers at this point...Antonio Bryant could also go here.
1. Team Schottey: Derrick Ward (RB-TB) With some of the better handcuffs off the board, the best two running backs available are Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham. If you don't select two backs high (no longer as common as it once was) you need to make sure to pair a mid tier RB with the guy he's splitting carries with. In this scenario, Ward is the most likely to grab the most carries and receptions. In the next (hypothetical round) I would grab Graham, who will be getting the most red zone work.
Sixth Round Notes
John Harkey: You certainly hit the nail on the head with Braylon Edwards and "stonehanditis". I tend to disagree with your thoughts on Brady Quinn. As far as I'm concerned, the name "Brady Quinn" and "good news" should never be used in the same sentence when referring to your team.
Sayre Bedinger: Unlike Brown, Moreno doesn't have to fight for playing time against Joseph Addai. Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan will get carries, but Moreno is a three-down back, and will hurt teams with his receiving abilities as well. I realize Brown is a versatile back, but you have painted Denver's backfield with the wrong brush.
Nathan Waddel: Brown could easily be the best back in this class. But we won't know this year. Moreno, barring injury, will shine this year and only after the Colts drop Addai will Brown finally have his shot. McCoy, if used like Westbrook, should also have his shot at glory.
John Lorge: Brown wasn't a draft and stash, the Colts are looking to win NOW and they wouldn't make that move. he will be used. If I were picking between Brown and Moreno I would give the nod to Knowshon but he was off the board. I really like Shady but I'm not sure how how much he will be used unless BW is hurt.
01. Schotty - Maurice Jones-Drew
02. Stashin - Adrian Peterson
03. Lorge - Steve Slaton
04. Lester - Michael Turner
05. Bedinger - DeAngelo Williams
06. Waddel - Matt Forte
07. Winslow - Chris Johnson
08. Williams - Tom Brady
09. Anderson - Stephen Jackson
10. Nash - Drew Brees
11. Harkey - Frank Gore
12. Crowe - Larry Fitzgerald
12. Crowe - Ladainian Tomlinson
11. Harkey - Andre Johnson
10. Nash - Brandon Jacobs
09. Anderson - Randy Moss
08. Williams - Marion Barber III
07. Winslow - Brian Westbrook
06. Waddel - Clinton Portis
05. Bedinger - Calvin Johnson
04. Lester - Steve Smith
03. John Lorge - Reggie Wayne
02. Stashin - Peyton Manning
01. Schottey - Anquan Boldin
01. Schottey - Wes Welker
02. Stashin - Ryan Grant
03. Lorge - Greg Jennings
04. Lester - Ronnie Brown
05. Bedinger - Aaron Rodgers
06. Waddel - Roddy White
07. Winslow - Joseph Addai
08. Williams - Tim Hightower
09. Anderson - Philip Rivers
10. Nash - Terrell Owens
11. Harkey - Marques Colston
12. Crowe - Matt Cassell
12. Crowe - Willie Parker
11. Harkey - Kevin Smith
10. Nash - Pierre Thomas
09. Anderson - Thomas Jones
08. Williams - TJ Houshmazilla
07. Winslow - DeSean Jackson
06. Waddel - Dwayne Bowe
05. Bedinger - Jason Witten
04. Lester - Roy Williams
03. Lorge - Marshawn Lynch
02. Stashin - Brandon Marshall
01. Schottey - Jay Cutler
01. Schottey - Donovan McNabb
02. Stashin- Darren McFadden
03. Lorge - Vincent Jackson
04. Lester - Santonio Holmes
05. Bedinger - Knowshon Moreno
06. Waddel - Reggie Bush
07. Winslow - Anthony Gonzalez
08. Williams - Chad Ocho Cinco
09. Anderson - Tony Gonzalez
10. Nash - Bernard Berrian
11. Harkey - Kurt Warner
12. Crowe - Chris Beanie Wells
12. Crowe - Lee Evens
11. Harkey - Antonio Gates
10. Nash - Jonathan Stewart
09. Anderson - Santana Moss
08. Williams - Dallas Clark
07. Winslow - Tony Romo
06. Waddel - Braylon Edwards
05. Bedinger - Eddie Royal
04. Lester - Carson Palmer
03. Lorge - Donald Brown
02. Stashin - Jericho Cotchery
01. Schottey - Derrick Ward
Special thanks to all the B/R writers that contributed to this mock draft