On Sunday, Adam and I completed our first ever Fantasy Football Players’ Championship (“FFPC”) draft. For those unfamiliar, the FFPC is the premiere high-stake fantasy football league. Entrants participate in 12-team leagues where 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 2 Flex, 1 DEF, and 1 K are required each week. The FFPC includes bonus scoring for tight ends, rewarding 1.5 points per reception while other positions are rewarded with one point. Adam and I were awards the ninth pick and here’s how our draft went…
1.09: Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE
Others Considered: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB;
The top running backs (Foster, Rice, McCoy, Chris Johnson, Forte and McFadden) were off the board. In addition, Jimmy Graham and Calvin Johnson were selected. Gronkowski offers a high-end, premium blend of size, speed, and soft-hands. Opposing defensive coordinators haven’t figured out how to stop Gronkowski. While Adam and I aren’t expecting a repeat of Gronk’s 18-TD effort, we’ll be happy with another 12-14 TD, 85-90 reception season. FFPC rewards tight ends for bonus points, so that’s just icing on the cake.
We didn’t select Aaron Rodgers for a few reasons. There’s no denying Rodgers’ talent, poise, and durability. He was the top quarterback on our board, but we liked the value we could get later on. In addition, passing touchdowns are only four points in FFPC. Rodgers is the game’s best option, but the drop-off in production isn’t as great at QB as it is in other positions.
2.04: Steven Jackson, RB, STL
Others Considered: Darren Sproles, RB, NO
S-Jax has been the model of consistency. The bruising Rams’ RB has seven straight seasons of 1,000 yards and has reported to training camp in the best shape of his career. Jackson is a big, bull-dozing running back that maintains just three-percent body fat. Some may argue that the 29-year-old will breakdown in the near future, but this workload and new head coach (Jeff Fisher), suggest otherwise. During Fisher’s tenure with the Titans, he ran his running backs (i.e. Eddie George and Chris Johnson) into the ground. While the Rams won’t have a ton of wins, they’ll have an absolute brute in Jackson that will plow his way to another 1,000+ yard season.
Darren Sproles broke out in a big way with the Saints last season. His 80-receptions were tops among running backs. However, Sproles has been slowed down by a nagging knee injury this pre-season and won’t garner as many opportunities as S-Jax. Sproles is going to be good, but we liked S-Jax a little more here.
3.09: Victor Cruz, WR, NYG
Others Considered: Fred Jackson, RB, BUF
Talk about a break-out. Cruz lit the NFL on fire last season with his 1,500+ yard campaign. Cruz is one of the NFL’s most explosive playmakers and will be catching balls from one of the league’s best quarterbacks. Cruz can make (or break) lineups on a weekly basis with his big-play ability. With Cruz still seeking a new contract, we expect him to have another huge season with many big plays. Cruz was the ninth wide receiver selected and for us, Cruz once again has Top-5 upside.
Fred Jackson was great for over half a season before breaking his leg. Jackson will be the lead back on one of the NFL’s ‘sleeper’ teams this season. However, we couldn’t pass up on Cruz’s play making ability and the threat of C.J. Spiller was enough to confirm our decision.
4.04: Percy Harvin, WR, MIN
Others Considered: Cam Newton, QB, CAR
Between Harvin and Cruz, we may have two of the NFL’s most dynamic playmakers. Adam and I liked Harvin for a few reasons. Alike Cruz, Harvin is seeking a new contract. Harvin made a stink about it in the off-season, but vowed to post a big season and earn his money. In terms of production, Harvin had the second most touches among WRs after Christian Ponder took over starting quarterback duties. Harvin can take snaps in the backfield, split out wide, and in the slot. Harvin is a game braker and we aren’t worried about at all about his concussions. Leagues in the FFPC aren’t won on conservative drafting.
Cam Newton set the NFL on fire last year with his 21 passing TDs and 14 rushing TDs. When evaluating Newton, we saw a big-time play-making quarterback. However, are his 14-TDs repeatable? The Panthers have three talented running backs in DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert. Of note, Stewart and Tolbert are talented around the goal-line. We didn’t think the Panthers would want their franchise player taking as many hits running the ball this year. We liked the QB value later on, so we passed on taking a QB.
5.09: Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN (FLEX)
Others Considered: None
Between our Harvin and Thomas selections, ten wide receivers were selected. Of note, Brandon Lloyd and Eric Decker were selected. Adam and I were particularly high on Decker, but Decker’s team mate, Thomas, was our pick. The whole Denver passing game received a huge boost when Tim Tebow was replaced in favor of Peyton Manning. Tebow and Thomas had some great chemistry, so we can wait to see what Thomas can do with Manning. Thomas is a pure, huge-upside play. Thomas is big, physical and should become one of Manning’s favorites. Thomas’ ceiling is 90-1200-10 and that value was too good to pass up in Round 5.
6.04: Donald Brown, RB, IND
Others Considered: Stevan Ridley, RB, NE
Ugh. We didn’t want to do it, but we had no other choice. Twenty-two other running backs were selected and we needed a second-back, so we turned to the third-year running back from UCONN. Given the trade of Peyton Manning, the selection of Andrew Luck, and the new coaching staff/GM, the Colts are in full rebuild mode. However, the Colts let Joseph Addai go and did little to sure-up their running back depth. Vick Ballard was drafted in the fourth-round, but hasn’t performed well in the pre-season. In addition, Delone Carter has been terrible and Mewelde Moore is nothing more than a third-down back. Offensive coordinator, Bruce Arian coached the Steelers for many seasons and I see a lot of Willie Parker in Brown. If Brown can get 1,000 yards and catch 30-35 passes, he’s a steal in the sixth round.
Alike Brown, Ridley appears to have the starting running back secured for the Patriots. However, Ridley fumbled once in the playoffs and was sent to the bench. Belichick does not care who starts or receives carries at running back…as long as they don’t turn the ball over. Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead could steal carries if Ridley falters early. Ultimately, Ridley was selected a few picks later.
7.09: Eli Manning, QB, NYG
Others Considered: Frank Gore, RB, SF
Prior to picking Eli, eight other teams had secured their starting quarterbacks. Not wanting to pick between Phil Rivers, RG3, and Peyton Manning, Adam and I snapped up the Giants’ signal caller. Eli threw for nearly 5,000 yards last season and has arguably the best wide receiver duo in the league. In addition, the Giants added the dynamic running back, David Wilson in the draft. Wilson could take a few swing passes from Manning to the house, so that addition only adds to his value. At QB9, we loved Eli and consider him the last high-floor, value-QB play.
We were set on Eli, but Frank Gore fell very, very far, so we had to consider him. The 49ers added Brandon Jacobs in free agency and LaMichael James in the NFL Draft. Youngster Kendall Hunter has been pushing Gore for the starting role and had a nice training camp. Gore is getting older and we didn’t see any upside with this pick. The FFPC is all about playing to win and Gore wasn’t a winning pick.
8.04: Tony Gonzalez, TE, ATL (FLEX)
Others Considered: Ben Tate, RB, HOU; Benjarvus Green-Ellis, RB, CIN
Since joining the Falcons in 2009, Gonzalez has had no fewer than 70 catches and 6 TDs in any season. Gonzlaez is a 35-year-old tight end, but keeps himself in remarkable shape. The Falcons have installed a new offense that heavily emphasizes the passing attack, so that can only benefit Gonzalez. Drafters passed over Gonzalez for less-talented, experienced options like Brent Celek and Jacob Tamme, which is fine. Gonzlaez is as consistent as they come. He’s a great second flex and a solid backup behind Gronk.
We considered both running backs, but we liked the stability of Gonzalez. FFPC rewards 1.5 points per reception to tight end and Tate and BJGE don’t offer much in the way of receptions.
9.09: Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR
10.04: Isaac Redman, RB, PIT
11.09: Isiah Pead, RB, STL
12.04: Ronnie Hillman, RB, DEN
Since we have Donald Brown as our RB2, we selected a stable of running backs. Stewart was rewarded with a long-term contract this off-season and is one DeAngelo Williams injury away from a cushy gig. Stewart sprained his ankle against the Jets, but should be ready to go early on. Isaac Redman is dealing with a few minor injuries, but is the current starter for the Steelers. In the tenth round, we couldn’t pass him up. Since we selected Jackson in Round 2, we handcuffed him with Pead in Round 11. While we expect Jackson to carry the mail, having Pead as insurance was necessary. Finally, Ronnie Hillman is nothing more than an upside play. Willis McGahee is the starter in Denver, but Hillman selected by Peyton Manning as the running back of the future. McGahee isn’t exactly the most durable running back, so Hillman may have his chance to win the job.
13.09: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, BUF
14.04: Alshon Jeffrey, WR, CHI
15.09: Austin Collie, WR, IND
16.04: Dallas Clark, TE, TB
17.09: Lions Defense
18.04: Jets Defense
19.09: Eddie Royal, WR, SD
20.04: Rob Bironas, K, TEN
A lot of depth picks here. We liked Alshon Jeffrey and Austin Collie a lot. Jeffrey steps into a situation where the Bears want to throw it early and often. Defenses will aim to stop Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte, so Jeffrey will have his opportunities. As we saw last year, rookie wide receivers can make a serious impact in their first seasons. Austin Collie has had so many concussions, but when he’s on the field, he’s dynamic. As our fifth wide receiver, we could do a lot worse. The Colts state that Collie will be ready to go for Week 1, so we’ll see how he responds. Dallas Clark and Ryan Fitzpatrick are often forgotten, but they could be diamonds in the rough. The Bucs got rid of Kellen Winslow in favor of Dallas Clark. Clark is only two-years removed from his big season with Peyton Manning. Clark was the 25th TE selected, so we could have done worse. As for the Jets/Lions, we liked the pairing and should get top tier production on a weekly basis. I like Eddie Royal a lot as a sleeper slot wide receiver, but Adam hated the pick. To make up for it, he selected our kicker, Rob Bironas.
Overall, we are very happy with our team and we should be in the mix for the league’s crown. Donald Brown is the lynch pin of our team. A big year from Brown could lead this team to glory. However, the mere thought of Donald Brown makes me a little queasy and uneasy. Adam is ‘All-In’ on Brown, so we’ll see what it can do for him!
QB: Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RB: Steven Jackson, Donald Brown (gulp), Jonathan Stewart, Isaac Redman, Ronnie Hillman, Isiah Pead
WR: Victor Cruz, Percy Harvin, Demaryius Thomas, Alshon Jeffrey, Austin Collie, Eddie Royal
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark
K: Rob Bironas
DEF: Lions, Jets