Shortly before Ray Rice and Vonta Leach left tread marks on the Washington Redskins defense in front of a national audience on Thursday night, an expert panel of 12 fantasy football junkies gathered for some mock draft reps. Our aim in the following slides is to provide war-room analysis and help refine your snake-format playbooks.
The draft panel formidably rounds out with B/R's Rob Goldberg, Brandon Croce, Gary Davenport, Matt Stein, Brandon Galvin, Max Minsker, Mark Ortega, Cian Fahey and two unnamed fantasy football addicts that have unwittingly offered themselves up as necessary whipping posts for devil's advocacy.
In the following slides: How far Peyton Manning fell, how an unusually terrifying projected top five shook out—there are colossal questions for each player—and which picks brought on guffaws and ridicule.
A little foreshadowing in the picture above as Adrian Peterson signals exactly where he went in the draft.
We'll start off with me since I had the first overall pick, and we will conclude with Cian Fahey who landed the 12th pick in round one. Remember that this is a snake draft, so my second-round pick becomes the 24th overall, third round 25th and so on. The roster settings and scoring system for the draft are located at the bottom of this slide.
Ray Rice made me look good right away by taking the goal-line carry moments after I drafted him and beating two Redskins in the hole for a touchdown. The ESPN mock draft room had him projected outside the top four but I find that crazy, and hope those red zone handoffs continue.
1 Ray Rice 2 Vincent Jackson (24th) 3 Miles Austin (25th) 4 Tony Romo (48th)
Vincent Jackson will make up for lost time. I envision the Chargers will play with a major pissed-off factor in 2011 — much like the Patriots in '07 and '10 — that will lead to a significant boost in offensive aggression when most teams might chew the clock.
For the past three years I've been dedicated to taking two receivers I project as top 10 guys. I just trust them way more than running backs and I usually feel confident in the late-first/early-second tier QBs. Tony Romo falls to 48 and it all works out. That's my quarterback. I was sweating that I might not even get Schaub here.
5 BenJarvus Green-Ellis (49th) 6 Marshawn Lynch (72nd) 7 Owen Daniels (73rd)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was my one major instance of buyer's remorse in this draft, as Belichick is almost Shanahanian with running back trust. This pick could come back to bite me in my fake league. "The Law Firm" just scored so many TDs last year and I wasn't thrilled with anyone else at that spot. With Marshawn Lynch and Owen Daniels I'm extrapolating impressive things they did late last season.
8 Brandon Jacobs (96th) 9 Roy Williams (97th) 10 Kevin Kolb (120th) 11 James Jones (121st)
Brandon Jacobs and the Giants run blocking — and as usual the right side — looked straight powerful against Chicago last week. Roy Williams has the trust of his offensive coordinator for now, and I'm hoping it stays that way. Kevin Kolb and James Jones I love by association (Fitz and A-Rod). Ricky Williams is just a handcuff for my No. 1. Steve Breaston had decent numbers last year when you consider that Arizona had one of the worst QB platoons of the past decade.
12 Ricky Williams (144th) 13 Steve Breaston (145th) 14 Danario Alexander (168th) 15 Saints D/ST (169th) 16 Dan Carpenter (192nd)
The Danario Alexander pick drew some guffaws since he might not even make the Rams roster. That WR battle royale seems like such a crapshoot, but I do know the deep threat that does emerge will provide great fantasy value. Alexander is a mega-flyer, but at pick 14 I'll sleep OK. Grabbed Saints D/ST and Dan Carpenter last because I never pick team defense or kicker any earlier, and it almost always works out fine.
Following at @ThomasEmerick on Twitter is a great idea. Currently Bleacher Report NFL Associate Editor. Former AOL FanHouse NFL blog editor/fantasy football & college sports analyst. Virginia Tech grad. I am also an avid diabetic.
Roster Starts: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 RB/WR Flex, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 TE, 1 Team Defense. 7 on bench.
Point system: Non-PPR. 6 points for all touchdowns. 1 point = 25 passing yards, 10 rushing yards, 10 receiving yards. Interceptions and fumbles = Negative 2 fantasy points
Team defense records 6 points for shutout, 4 for 2-10, 2 for 11-19, 0 for anything more. 2 fantasy points for turnover created of any sort, and blocked kick or punt by special teams. Special teams TDs count as 6 fantasy points for team defense.
Kickers: 3 points per field goal 18-49 yards, 4 points for anything 50 or over. 1 fantasy point per extra point.
The biggest surprise of the draft may have come in the very beginning. Ray Rice was taken with the first overall pick, so I had to grab the best running back in the league in Adrian Peterson. Even if the Minnesota Vikings struggle, Peterson is such a tough player to contain and he will most likely have another solid year.
Most of the running backs I selected in this draft were solid if unspectacular. They all seemed to fall to me to the point that I could not pass them up. This is a very shallow year for backs, and once the rounds get higher, there are few players that an owner should feel comfortable with. Peterson, Steven Jackson, and Ryan Grant create a solid starting three while Daniel Thomas could be in line for a very good rookie year.
1. (2) Adrian Peterson 2. (23) Steven Jackson 3. (26) DeSean Jackson 4. (47) Matt Schaub 5. (50) Mario Manningham
At wide receiver, I decided to draft for upside. Some of the players could have been considered reaches, but there is a good chance at least a few could have breakout seasons. DeSean Jackson is proven, and Mario Manningham had an amazing finish to last year without Steve Smith playing. Braylon Edwards is on a one-year, incentive-laden contract that could motivate him to a great season. Jacoby Ford and Hilton Armstrong are both speedsters with few weapons around them. As late round picks, the hope is that any one of them can step up for a breakout year.
6. (71) Ryan Grant 7. (74) Daniel Thomas 8. (95) Kellen Winslow 9. (98) Braylon Edwards 10. (119) Jacoby Ford
The quarterback position is the only relative weakness from my perspective. There is a large drop off after the “elite-level” players. When Drew Brees and Philip Rivers were each taken before my pick, I decided to wait a few rounds to grab another solid quarterback, Matt Schaub. While many would grab a backup, I did not feel as though any remaining quarterbacks would be any better than a waiver wire pick up.
11. (122) Rashad Jennings 12. (143) Bears D/ST 13. (146) Montario Hardesty 14. (167) Anthony Armstrong 15. (170) LaRod Stephens-Howling 16. (191) Nick Folk
The best strategy I would give is to look for upside in players, especially late in the draft. Not everyone will breakout like you hope, but the more opportunities you give yourself the better chance you have to succeed.
For more fantasy football analysis, check out:
My strategy entering a draft is to secure my running back and wide receivers first then focus on the rest of the team. The best strategies though are ones that are flexible, and this draft was a perfect example of it. With the third overall pick, I had to switch my strategy more towards taking the best available. I was happy getting Jamaal Charles in the first, who has the potential to be the best fantasy performer this year, and Philip Rivers, who could be the best QB in 2011 with Vincent Jackson playing for a full season.
1 Jamaal Charles 2(22nd) Philip Rivers 3(27) DeAngelo Williams 4(46) Steve Johnson 5(51) Anquan Boldin
After the sixth round, I had filled my starting QB, RBs and WRs and could start taking a couple more risks with players who had higher upside.
6(70) Mark Ingram 7(75) Mike Thomas 8(94) Willis McGahee 9(99) Plaxico Burress 10(118) Brandon Pettigrew 11(123) Falcons D/ST
I believe Willis McGahee will end up being the starting running back in Denver before the end of the season and Plaxico Burress has the potential to be a number one WR, something hard to find in the ninth round. I took some risk at tight end with Brandon Pettigrew, but adding Brent Celek provides me with some good insurance.
12(142) Brent Celek 13(147) Donald Driver 14(166) Ryan Fitzpatrick 15(171) Nate Kaeding 16(190) Dolphins D/ST
Overall, I am very happy with my team. I have never liked picking in the top three of a draft because of the long break between picks, but grabbing Jamaal Charles and Rivers built the foundation for a good team.
I wound up taking a few more lower-range wide receivers than I anticipated, but I feel pretty confident with the Foster-Hillis-Benson-Bush group as my top four RBs. And truthfully, I don't even trust Bush that much. Getting Ben Tate made me feel a lot better about taking Foster too.
1 Arian Foster, RB 2(21st) Drew Brees, QB 3(28) Peyton Hillis, RB 4(45) Marques Colston, WR 5(52) Dallas Clark, TE 6(69) Cedric Benson, RB 7(76) Sidney Rice, WR 8(93) AJ Green, WR 9(100) Reggie Bush, RB
Taking Brees early settled my quarterback position for the season, and McNabb's a decent-enough backup if something goes horribly wrong. And, confession: I love drafting Dallas Clark and try to do so whenever I can. I'm taking the risk that he's 100 percent healthy and Peyton Manning will come back to hit him for a billion passes again.
10(117) Lee Evans, WR 11(124) Jets D/ST 12(141) Andre Roberts, WR 13(148) Ben Tate, RB 14(165) Donovan McNabb, QB 15(172) Sebastian Janikowski, K 16(189) Nate Burleson, WR
I also think I can piece together a strong enough receiving corps to make up for not really having an elite option. Colston and Rice should have nice years, Green's going to be a popular target for Andy Dalton, and Evans, Roberts and Burleson all feel like decent sleeper options to me.
Editor's note: Highly recommending the blog "Audibles: Chris Burke on the NFL" at SI.com and ChrisBurke_SI on Twitter.
Drafting from the fifth slot isn’t what I’d call ideal, and I found myself taking several risks, beginning with selecting Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson in the first round. Johnson’s contract impasse could drag into the season, and while I mitigated my risk somewhat by “handcuffing” Javon Ringer to Johnson in the 12th round this first pick could make or break my season.
The fact that this “league” does not award points per receptions places a premium on running backs, so I followed up the Johnson pick by adding Darren McFadden of the Raiders and Matt Forte of the Bears with my next two choices. I then rounded out my backfield by snagging McFadden’s handcuff, running back Michael Bush, in the ninth round and taking a late flier on Patriots rookie Stevan Ridley, who has looked solid in preseason action.
Waiting until the fifth round to select a wide receiver forced me to take some chances at the position, and I did so with three consecutive picks in the middle of the draft by choosing Brandon Marshall of the Miami Dolphins, the Titans Kenny Britt, and Austin Collie of the Indianapolis Colts. Each player carries with him some risk, be it injury (Collie), the possibility of suspension (Britt), or iffy quarterback play (Marshall), but each player also possesses enough fantasy upside that should they pan out my receiving corps would be fairly solid.
5(53) Brandon Marshall – WR, MIA 6(68) Kenny Britt – WR, TEN 7(77) Austin Collie – WR, IND 8(92) Matthew Stafford – QB, DET 9(101) Michael Bush – RB, OAK 10(116) Lance Moore – WR, NO
I also eschewed the quarterback position until well into the draft but was pleased to be able to snag Matthew Stafford of the Lions in the eighth round, as he appears poised to take the next step running a Detroit offense that has no shortage of offensive weaponry. Stafford also carries with him a fairly considerable risk of injury, so I hedged my bet a bit by taking Jay Cutler of the Bears a few rounds later.
11(125) Jay Cutler – QB, CHI 12(140) Javon Ringer – RB, TEN 13(149) Stevan Ridley – RB, NE 14(164) Dustin Keller – TE, NYJ 15(173) San Diego D/ST 16(188) Adam Vinatieri – K, IND
Generally speaking I think it’s a solid strategy to select an elite tight end, as the premium you pay to get one is worth it given the advantage it can give you over other teams in your league. I put this strategy into practice here, taking Jason Witten of the Cowboys in the fourth round and backing him up with Dustin Keller of the Jets towards the end of the draft. I do not, however, place a high priority on team defenses or kickers, so I waited until the draft’s final two rounds to select a defense with a strong week one matchup (San Diego) and a kicker (Adam Vinatieri of the Colts) who plays indoors on a team that should score quite a few points.
All in all I feel pretty good about the chances this team would have were this league “played out”, and although the amount of risk involved with many of my selections may be a bit too rich for some folks blood and the odds of this team imploding aren’t insignificant, neither are the chances that this team could realize it’s considerable fantasy potential and be playoff-bound.
With the top five running backs already drafted, I had to choose between LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles and Aaron Rodgers. While McCoy would have been a good pick, I eventually decided on Rodgers because he will be the leader of a very potent offense.
An embarrassment of riches in the likes of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley, James Jones and Jordy Nelson to throw the ball too; Rodgers has plenty of weapons to play with. Rodgers enters 2011 as the top fantasy quarterback and has the opportunity for a truly special season.
1(6th) - Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers Round 2(19th pick) - Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
People are shying away from Frank Gore because of his recent problems with injuries, but when healthy, Gore is one of the best running backs in the league. He also plays for an offense that lacks an elite quarterback and should be relied on heavily throughout the season.
One other key aspect about Gore is that he is in the final year of his contract for the San Francisco 49ers. If he wants the big new deal, he will need a career year. We've seen other players have monster years in a contract season and the next running back hitting bank will be Gore.
3(30th) - Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers
I was really hoping that Matt Forte was available at this pick, but unfortunately, he was drafted right before my pick. I'm not complaining too much because Mike Wallace should have a fantastic season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is a true deep threat and became Ben Roethlisberger's top target last year.
Entering only his third year, Wallace could become a top-5 receiver after the year is done. If he can put up similar yards, but find the end zone more often, he might even be the top scoring wide receiver this year.
4(43rd) - Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After grabbing 11 touchdowns as a rookie, Mike Williams definitely surprised the masses last year. He and Josh Freeman had an instant connection and that should only grow stronger. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team on the rise and Freeman and Williams are two main reasons why.
As long as Williams doesn't digress or get into trouble off the field, we should see similar numbers to 2010. If better, then he's probably the steal of the round.
5(54th pick) - Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions
This might have been a stretch for Jahvid Best, but my team really needed another running back and I was running out of options.
At times last year, Best looked extremely explosive. Unfortunately, his small frame caused problems with injuries and he missed plenty of games. As long as he can stay healthy, he should have a great season. He will also be used as a receiving back for Matthew Stafford which greatly increases his fantasy potential.
Also, with the injury to Mikel LeShoure, Best will probably be the feature back for the Detroit Lions. The Lions could surprise some people this year as a team and Best could be a big reason why.
6(67th pick) - Shonn Greene, New York Jets
I had two reasons for taking Shonn Greene with this pick. The first reason is that he is a tough, young running back who looks ready for a big season. The second reason is that LaDainian Tomlinson is on his last legs as an effective running back.
Those two reasons combined make Greene a great pick this late in the draft. He will see the majority of the carries for the Jets and with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, and I expect New York to run the ball pretty frequently.
Last year was supposed to be the breakout season for Greene, but I believe it just got pushed back a year.
7(78th pick) - Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts
Unfortunately, I really had to reach for Garcon here. I would have liked to wait another round or two to draft him, but I desperately needed a wide receiver and Garcon felt like the best option.
In his three years with the Indianapolis Colts, Garcon has improved each season and has become a dependable target for Peyton Manning. When you throw in the injury problems that Austin Collie has, Garcon could challenge for the position opposite Reggie Wayne.
The Colts are still a pass-first team, which means that Wayne, Collie and Garcon could all have good years. He'll provide quality numbers when I need him to take over for a starter during a bye week.
If he cracks the starting lineup, I might even consider starting him at times.
8(91st pick) - Johnny Knox, Chicago Bears
I really like Johnny Knox as a player and I actually think he is the best wide receiver that the Chicago Bears have. Roy Williams is too inconsistent and Devin Hester is still figuring out how to play wide receiver.
That leaves Knox as the top target for Jay Cutler, who has improved each year under Mike Martz's pass-happy offense. If Cutler continues to improve and continues to look for Knox, both players could have potentially giant fantasy campaigns.
Even if Cutler struggles, Knox should still be able to separate himself from Chicago's other receivers and have a quality season.
9(102nd pick) - Thomas Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
I really needed a running back backs who actually receive decent amount of carries were running out. I know that Thomas Jones is getting old, but it appears as if the Kansas City Chiefs might continue to split carries between Jones and Jamaal Charles pretty evenly.
If that is the case, Jones could become a very good reserve player. Remember, this is a player who consistently to produces fantastic rushing numbers. In fact, 2011 was the first time in six years that Jones hadn't broken 1,000 yards rushing.
Even if Jones' numbers take another slight dip this year, he was the best option out there.
10( 115th pick) - Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
After Jeremy Shockey left, Graham became the main tight end for the New Orleans Saints. Whenever Drew Brees is throwing you the ball, you can expect plenty of opportunities to make plays. Graham should also see plenty of looks his way in the red zone and could become a touchdown machine for the Saints.
With the big name tight ends already long gone, Graham has the most potential to put up the biggest numbers out of any of the second-tier tight ends.
11(126th pick) - Ryan Torain, Washington Redskins
Ryan Torain was the best available running back at this point in the draft. He currently sits behind Tim Hightower, and maybe Roy Helu, on the Washington Redskins depth chart. However, Torain could see plenty of touches near the end zone and might rack up touchdowns in bunches.
12(139th pick) - Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots
I'm going to be brutally honest as to why I picked Danny Woodhead. I panicked.
Yep, I was running out of time and my mouse just happened to be on Woodhead at the time. I don't plan on ever using him and if this was a real league, I would probably drop him and look for a sleeper. He had a good year last year, but the backfield is just too crowded in New England and I don't see a spot for him to excel at.
13(150th pick) - Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs
This is a great back-up tight end and sometimes, depending on who he is playing, I may put Tony Moeaki in instead of Jimmy Graham. I was very surprised to see him drop this far considering the breakout year he starting having at the end of 2011.
The Kansas City Chiefs love to run the ball, but Matt Cassel is a good quarterback and will be relied on at times to win games for the Chiefs. When Kansas City gets into a shootout, Cassel will look for Moeaki as his second or third option behind Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston.
The worst case scenario with Moeaki is that he comes in during Jimmy Graham's bye week and I lose out on a few points. On the flip side, the best case scenario is that he has a huge year and becomes a breakout fantasy tight end.
14(163rd pick) - Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns
My main concern here was finding a quarterback who had a different bye week than Aaron Rodgers. McCoy will be a bench warmer for me and should Aaron Rodgers get injured, I would feel confident with him stepping in.
15(174th pick) - Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have a young defense and they should only continue to improve. They boast a very good secondary and an underrated pass rusher in Tamba Hali. If the rest of the defense continues to develop, this could be a top-10 defense by the end of the year. Even if they struggle, there are plenty of defenses available that are serviceable for fantasy purposes.
16(187th pick) - Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
Anyone who drafted a kicker before their last pick is just foolish. A kicker is a kicker and there are more than enough decent fantasy options to go around. Mason Crosby inspires confidence because of a potent Packers offense.
Check out more work by Matt Stein at his B/R profile.
McCoy is one of the safest picks in the first round. You would’ve taken Brian Westbrook No. 7 overall during his prime and that’s exactly what McCoy translates to with his skills. McCoy isn’t injury prone, and will always make up for the lack of rushing yards with receiving yards. Don’t fear Ronnie Brown, McCoy will still receive goal line carries too.
Larry Fitzgerald is my No. 2 overall receiver this year. He produced phenomenal numbers with a terrible QB unit last year. Fitz will be Kevin Kolb’s primary red zone, possession and deep threat option. He’ll dominate targets and could finish as the No. 1 overall receiver.
1 (7th Overall): LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles 2 (18th Overall): Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals 3 (31st Overall): LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4 (42nd Overall): Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals
LeGarrette Blount is a great pick in the third-round of non-PPR leagues. He’s guaranteed early down and goal line carries. Even better, he’s improving his receiving skills to stay on the field at all times, which means he could get some yards through the air too.
Ryan Williams’ season-ending injury paves the way for Beanie Wells to explode. Wells will be a second-round pick next year after dominating on all downs this season. A respectable quarterback in Arizona will provide Wells with more goal line opportunities.
5 (55th Overall): Chad Ochocinco, WR, New England Patriots 6 (66th Overall): Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers 7 (79th Overall): Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins 8 (90th Overall): Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Chad Ochocinco will re-emerge as a top fantasy wideout this season. He’ll benefit from having Tom Brady toss him the rock all year. Brady and Bill Belichick generally want to prove the world wrong by having troubled stars come in and thrive. Ochocinco will be another.
Vernon Davis is too good to pass up in the sixth round as the last elite TE on the board. He will benefit from Braylon Edwards stretching the field and Michael Crabtree’s injury concern. Davis should be the primary red zone target for Alex Smith. Yes, above Braylon.
Who else is going to catch the ball in Washington? Santana Moss will be the top Redskins’ receiving threat this season. You want a receiver who will dominate targets in fantasy, and that’s exactly what Moss will do.
9 (103rd Overall): Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams 10 (114th Overall): Mike Sims-Walker, WR, St. Louis Rams 11 (127th Overall): LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, New York Jets 12 (138th Overall): Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Sam Bradford will emerge as an elite QB with Josh McDaniels calling the offense. McDaniels turned Kyle Orton into an elite fantasy QB, so it’s difficult to imagine how much fun he’ll have with Bradford. Bradford has an improved supporting cast and remarkable accuracy.
I know Steve Smith was still on the board, but Danny Amendola will be the next Wes Welker of the NFL. He’s going to rack up receptions and yards and could receive some touchdowns too. Josh McDaniels is a mastermind and made Brandon Lloyd a top fantasy WR during his time in Denver.
One of the Rams receivers will break the bank, so might as well take both sleepers. Mike Sims-Walker is looking for a contract, so expect his knee to magically get better by game day. He’s scored 14 touchdowns the past two seasons, so double-digits is highly likely.
It remains to be seen if Shonn Greene can carry a full workload, so you might as well take his backup in a run-heavy offense. LaDainian Tomlinson still has great hands and is a red zone threat, so he could do some damage as well.
Tony Gonzalez is too good to pass up. He’d give me trade bait during the season. Gonzalez should bounce back with the Falcons opening up the passing attack for Matt Ryan. Julio Jones and Harry Douglas will spread the field to give Gonzalez more room to work with.
13 (151st Overall): Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins 14 (162nd Overall): Greg Little, WR, Cleveland Browns 15 (175th Overall): Cowboys D/ST 16 (186th Overall): Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons
Mike Shanahan didn’t draft Roy Helu in the fourth round for no reason. He loves to use these shifty type of running backs for his offense, so he’ll be good for a spot start or two during the season.
Greg Little is the real deal in Cleveland. He has Terrell Owens-like physical skills. He is an aggressive receiver who will be Colt McCoy’s primary deep threat and possession receiver. He could be this year’s No. 1 rookie WR.
I believe in Rob Ryan, so expect the Cowboy’s defense to be much improved this season. Reminder: Never draft a defense before the last three rounds. They are impossible to predict.
Matt Bryant plays most of his games in domes, so no need to worry about weather conditions. He’s a reliable and accurate kicker in the prolific Falcons’ offense. Reminder: Never draft a kicker before the last round!
Strategy: In a 12-team non-PPR league, your best bet is to grab running backs that are guaranteed a ton of touches and goal line carries with three of your first five picks. I guaranteed that and moved on, though Marshawn Lynch fell further than I expected.
You need wide receivers that are guaranteed targets, so grab guys who are sure-fire No. 1 options. Larry Fitzgerald was a steal in the middle of the second round. I may have waited too long to grab my No. 2, but I still think Chad Ochocinco returns to glory. In this format, we can start three running backs and two wide receivers, so I’ll take the minimal hit. I was able to make up for it by grabbing another No. 1 option in Santana Moss and two of my top sleepers in the Rams’ starting two WRs.
Sam Bradford will be an elite fantasy QB in his second year. Vernon Davis has better hands than Braylon Edwards and is a safer bet to stay on the field more than Michael Crabtree, so I’ll take him in the sixth to fill out my starting roster.
It’s always nice to have a rookie or two to root for, and I believe Greg Little can be this year’s Mike Williams of Tampa Bay.
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I actually came away pretty satisfied with my team overall. I came in thinking I wanted two elite receivers and Antonio Gates, but with most of the great receivers gone by the time I picked in the second round, I had to improvise. Turner was still available, so despite the Roddy White, Michael Turner connection, I had to take him. I was happy when Wayne fell to me in the fourth round not because I like Wayne, but because I think he’s a great value pick there. I got Gates, as well as the No. 1 receiver in my opinion, so I have the best player at two positions right off the bat.
1. Roddy White 2(17) Michael Turner 3(32) Antonio Gates
While I went for quality with my receivers, I decided to opt for quantity when it comes to running backs. I got Turner in the second round, but after that, I waited until the fifth round to grab my next back, which ended up being Ryan Mathews, who at this point, I feel is a little bit underrated.
4(41) Reggie Wayne 5(56) Ryan Mathews 6(65) Ben Roethlisberger 7(80) Joseph Addai 8(89) Mike Tolbert
I complemented my below average No. 2 RB with his very productive handcuff (Mike Tolbert) as well as Joseph Addai, who could score a lot of touchdowns in the Colts offense, and Turner’s handcuff, Jason Snelling. I always handcuff if I think the backup is good enough, and in Turner’s case, I think the backup is very good. Ronnie Brown is just a depth pick. He stumbles into quite a nice situation if McCoy goes down. I can’t believe McCoy’s owner didn’t take him before I did.
As far as quarterback goes, I didn’t target Ben Roethlisberger, but I thought he provided good value at the spot where I got him. I didn’t target Eli Manning either, but at pick No. 104, I thought the value was too great to pass on an elite backup QB, especially considering how many hits Roethlisberger takes. I wanted Michael Bush there, but when he got taken, I settled for Manning.
9(104) Eli Manning 10(113) Robert Meachem 11(128) Jerome Simpson 12(137) Mike Williams (SEA) 13(152) Jason Snelling 14(161) Ronnie Brown 15(176) Patriots D/ST 16(185) Garrett Hartley
In a 12-team league, I’m about average at QB and RB, but above average at WR, and I have the best tight end. I have a solid bench, and if one of my running backs can have a breakout year, I think this team would have been a strong contender.
Also check out Minsker's take on where players should go in a 16-team mock draft in rounds 1-3.
Since it's common notion that you shouldn't invite experts to a panel and then insult them, we're including the picks of a couple fantasy football addicts who aren't actually writing about it. It is my infused conviction that every fantasy draft (and game) should include a healthy dose of chop-busting.
And it's always good to have a little extra criticism with fantasy sports analysis.
Matt and Ryan, as we'll call them, picked at ninth and 11th overall, respectively.
Matt's first four rounds amounted to Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Ahmad Bradshaw and Peyton Manning.
What scares me here is injuries. Not sure I would take Andre Johnson at No. 9. He missed three games with injury in 2011 and his ankle nagged much of last season. This undoubtedly affected his performance and tricked fantasy owners into starting him in games he would play in but leave.
My rule of thumb is too avoid players coming off nagging injuries in round one. He started all 16 games the previous two years and missed seven games in 2007. If I had to put money down, my money would be on Johnson as a top four receiver this coming year. But I personally would only snatch him in round two.
Hard to argue wtih Calvin Johnson at 16, another receiver I had rated in my top three. However, looking at Michael Turner on the board it might've been a good time to diversify. Santonio Holmes, Dwayne Bowe and Dez Bryant waited for him in Round 3 — and while they're not as high on my board as Megatron, I'm happy with one of those guys as my No. 2 receiver. Manning at 40 .... It's Peyton Manning. Hard to attack that even if he misses a game or starts slower than normal.
Ryan's early picks: Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Vick, Santonio Holmes and Felix Jones. MoJo's knee issue is definitely worrisome along with what figures to be a poor collection surrounding weapons in Jax. If MoJo calls me out for saying this on his fantasy football show (odds probably low), so be it. Many mock drafts have him around fifth-sixth overall, but again I don't put "recent ailment" and "first-round pick" in the same sentence in my draft playbook. It often works out for other people, but that's just me.
You also have to worry about that with Michael Vick, who hasn't played a full season since 2006. Of course, most of that was due to prison time, but it's hard not to worry about a quarterback that utilizes his mobility with such aggression. A lot of experts, particularly ESPN's Matthew Berry (Fantasy Focus a must-subscribe) would consider this an incredible steal at 14. When drafting, giving me a pocket quarterback in the first couple rounds and I feel much more at ease.
And I don't buy much into the extrapolation of Vick's stats to games he spent injured because 1) he got injured doing exactly what scores him so many extra fantasy points in breaking a long run to the goal line 2) the Eagles WR situation leaves reason to worry this preseason 3) defensive coordinators spent all offseason reacting to the new Vick and 4) the fact that he markedly dropped off down the stretch last season.
I won't be incredibly shocked if Vick finishes as a top five fantasy quarterback, just saying this is a very dangerous instance for extrapolation.
It seemed every time I had a sleeper in mind or a player I was targeting, they would get picked up a a selection or two right before me, namely Felix Jones and Ben Tate.
From the start I targeted everyone's favorite fantasy position and that is running back. My very first pick in Rashard Mendenhall was a no-brainer. All the top fantasy backs were being taken early, so I needed to pick one up also and Mendenhall is a very dependable and productive back.
In round four I ended up picking up my second back in Knowshon Moreno, whom I feel is in for a very big year on John Fox's Denver Broncos. I know people knock him due to his durability, but I feel having Willis McGahee around to give Moreno breaks when needed will help a lot.
1 (10th overall) Rashard Mendenhall 2 (15th overall) Greg Jennings 3 (34th overall) Dwayne Bowe 4 (39th overall) Knowshon Moreno
If Fox can help Moreno get to the level of DeAngelo Williams in Carolina, Moreno will finally earn the respect of fantasy players.
C.J. Spiller is someone who I feel is going to have a breakout year in Buffalo and outproduce Fred Jackson by mid-season. I feel Spiller's speed and potential are going to surface and show why he was Buffalo's top pick in the 2010 NFL draft. James Starks is a back with lots of potential and someone who I picked to fill out my bench. Lastly, Anthony Dixon is basically my test spot.
Every season I like to take one player off the radar to put on my bench due to ability and break out potential. Oftentimes my test player doesn't pan out, but I didn't pay a high price and I could use that roster spot to experiment.
5 (58th overall) Matt Ryan 6 (63rd overall) Wes Welker 7 (82nd overall) C.J. Spiller 8 (87th overall) Zach Miller 9 (106th overall) James Starks
Last year I always liked to pick quarterback in at least round three, so I could end up with one of the top names. I learned quickly that there was more value in receiver and running back picks early. This time around I waited until my fifth selectoin to pick a quarterback as I noticed more were being taken off the board. I happily wound up with QB Matt Ryan, whom I feel is going to make a huge jump into the elite rankings of fantasy quarterbacks this year.
Ryan is now comfortable in the offense with receivers like Roddy White and Julio Jones along with TE Tony Gonzalez. The real bargain I felt was in round 12 with my backup, Kyle Orton. While he may not put up the same numbers as he did last year in Josh McDaniels' offense, he is now the clear starter in Denver and should be an excellent backup to have during Ryan's bye week.
Wide Receiver is the position I am most pleased with on my fantasy team. I picked Greg Jennings in the second round because I feel he is in for another productive year as Aaron Rodgers' top receiver. Next in the thirrd round I picked Dwayne Bowe right away because I wanted two great receivers and saw the other receivers were going fast, so I knew by the time my next pick rolled around there wouldn't be many top targets to choose from. My third wide receiver who is in my starter flex slot is Wes Welker. For a 63rd overall pick I feel I received great value.
10 (111th overall) Eagles D/ST 11 (130th overall) Michael Crabtree 12 (135th overall) Kyle Orton 13 (154th overall) Anthony Dixon 14 (159th overall) Davone Bess
To have Tom Brady's favorite target starting as your third receiver is a very good feeling. The trio should lead my fantasy team in points and produce on a weekly basis. On my bench are Michael Crabtree and Davone Bess. Crabtree should develop into a great wide receiver going into his third year. Even with Braylon Edwards in town, I don't feel Crabtree's production will slip much and Crabtree is an excellent player to have on your bench for sheer potential.
Bess is also a good player to have around and every so often will put up excellent numbers. He's a dependable slot receiver in Miami and should serve as Chad Henne's security blanket, so I predict his fantasy numbers will go up slightly this season.
My other positions, starting with tight end, were ones I waited awhile to fill. In the eighth round I picked Zach Miller. Miller has always been one of my favorite tight ends in the game and I feel his fantasy numbers should increase in Seattle's offense.
15 (178th overall) Chris Cooley 16 (183rd overall) Rob Bironas
While Chris Cooley may not be a popular choice with his status up in the air due to injury, it's a 15th-rounder. I feel he will be an excellent producer when Miller is on bye.
In the 10th round, I picked the Eagles defense. It was a little earlier than I would have liked, but I saw the Steelers and Packers get taken and my next pick was a long ways away, so I didn't want to risk ending up with a mediocre defense, so I picked the Eagles.
I feel the Eagles are going to have one of the best defenses in the league this year, so in my opinion behind the Packers and Steelers it was the obvious pick.
The first round didn't fall the way I was hoping after nobody accepted my offer to trade up with my 2012 first round pick. To be fair it wasn't very appealing considering there is no draft next year, but I was still optimistic. The two players I was hoping to pickup went with the two choices ahead of me—Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Johnson. So I took who I considered to be the best value players at the other positions as I have sleepers at running back for later in the draft.
1 (12th) Tom Brady:
I didn't actually want to take Brady, as I was hoping to land either Ben Roethlisberger or Sam Bradford later on. Roethlisberger is surrounded by a ridiculous amount of weapons with an improved offensive line, and he's in the best shape of his career. While Bradford has more weapons than most think and should have a huge year in that offense.
2 (13th) Hakeem Nicks:
In the previous mock that I had done leading up to this one, Nicks was the second receiver that I had drafted behind Andre Johnson. Without a running back worth taking, and the fact that Nicks will be a huge piece for the Giants this year, I couldn't turn him down.
3 (36th) Jermichael Finley:
I was waiting for my next two targets again but both went just as I was about to choose—Mike Wallace and Antonio Gates. I moved down to the next best guy at each position, and I took tight end Michael Finley, who I believe could be an elite fantasy producer this year.
4 (37th) Dez Bryant:
Bryant put up decent numbers considering the rookie season he had. Injuries to himself as well as his quarterback contributed to the overall struggles of the Cowboys last year. This year he could have a monstrous season without any of those injuries holding him back.
5 (60th) Fred Jackson:
Once again, the two players I was hoping to fall to me went before I had a chance. Sensing a trend here? I was suspicious about the whole thing when the article's author had the first overall pick, despite his protestations he didn't want it. (Suuuuuuuuure Emerick, we believe you). Jackson was the best value at this spot.
6 (61st) Steelers D:
I probably upset a lot of people when taking a defense this high up, but there are two running backs still way down the board that I was waiting for who I considered to be big sleepers. The Steelers D is by far the best available this season with Troy Polamalu potentially staying healthy; key word being "potentially."
7 (84th) Tim Hightower:
Hightower is a guy that is going to get a huge amount of opportunities as the starter in Washington, and he's been fantastic so far in the preseason. I felt a lot better about the pick because two seconds after I took him, he scored a touchdown against the Ravens. Karma? Hey Emerick, you see, you do good things, and good things happen to you. So stop fixing fantasy drafts!
8 (85th) Julio Jones:
Jones wasn't the receiver I really wanted here, but the other guy I wanted was more likely to fall to the later rounds. Emmanuel Sanders is that other guy. I figured Jones' reputation would mean thar more guys would want him, but I see him as a risk. Hopefully it pans out.
9 (108th) Jerome Harrison:
The second half of this draft worked out much better for me, as both my sleepers at running back found their way to Team Fahey (creative name I know). Jahvid Best can't carry the load in Detroit, especially after his concussion in the preseason. Harrison can be the team's bell cow, and was harshly treated in Cleveland, and then never got a chance in Philadelphia. He's an abrasive runner with big play potential. Provided the Lions give him a chance, he could be a starter for me.
10 (109th) Emmanuel Sanders:
Sanders is a guy that I really like due to the fact that the Steelers offense will be wide open with a five-deep receiving corp. Sanders will benefit from defenses focusing on Mike Wallace. However he cannot be left one-on-one because he has good speed with a huge wingspan and reach. His soft hands allow him to pluck the ball out of the air, and he should put up some big touchdown numbers this year. His offseason foot issues are a concern however.
11 (132nd) Alex Henery:
I filled out my starting lineup with a talented looking kicker on what looks to be the most explosive offense in the league.
12 (133rdth) Matt Cassel:
After a quick look at the schedule, I realized Cassel's Chiefs would be playing the Raiders during Week 7. I'll take that, thank you very much.
13 (156th) Kevin Walter:
I was hoping to land Jason Snelling but I was happy enough to land a starting receiver this late in the draft.
14 (157th) St. Louis Rams:
I needed coverage for the Steelers' defense in Week 11, and the Rams had a nice matchup with Seattle during said time, whose quarterback situation will probably not be sorted by the year 3011, let alone Week 11.
15 (180th) Rob Gronkowski:
I'm surprised Gronkowski didn't go earlier than this. Nonetheless, with Brady as his quarterback, I was happy to have him as my backup.
16 (181st) Billy Cundiff:
Cundiff is arguably the best kicker in the league, he can be my backup any day.
Serial tweeting about everything and anything @Cianaf, and also writing for Irish Central and Fantasy Football Life.