Our good friend @Chet_G over at TheFakeFootball.com, was nice enough to invite me to participate in a mock draft recently. As fate would have it, I drew the short straw and wound up picking at #7 in a 12 team mock. What transpired was interesting, and has been the case lately, I stuck to my guns with a value based (RB/RB-BPA) strategy. Here's what happened...
Round 1.7- Could have gone a number of ways here, with Chris Johnson (once bitten, twice shy), MJD (holdout concerns), and Trent Richardson (a little too high for my taste) still on the board. There was no way I was taking a QB, WR or TE, with little value presenting itself. I opted for the slight risk/tremendous reward of Darren McFadden, and have my first RB secured.
Round 2.6- Still had the option to grab a WR (Fitzgerald), QB (Brees) or a stud TE (Gronkowski), but again, the value pointed to grabbing my 2nd RB. Matt Forte will not only report on time (and be paid finally), but he now has some legit WRs on the roster (Marshall and Jeffery) to take some of the focus off of him and open things up underneath in the passing game. I'm not worried about Michael Bush, other than some goal line vulturing. That's not Forte's bread and butter anyway, it's as a PPR back. His catch totals from 2008-2011 enforce that notion, averaging 55 catches per season.
Round 3.7- As expected, the WRs start to come off the board in this round, and I'm all in at this point, having secured two top RBs. Welker, Marshall, Bryant and Demaryius Thomas all come off the board in succession, and I happily select Julio Jones as my #1 WR. Lots of value at this point, as the drop off in production is minimal, and considerable upside is evident.
Round 4.6- My plan was still leaning on taking my WR2 at this point, but when Michael Vick fell into my lap, I had to pounce. Going as late as the early 5th round in most mocks, his value is tremendous as the 5th or 6th QB off the board. I'll attack WRs in rounds 5 and 6.
Round 5.7- Tons of love for Dez Bryant this year and with good reason, he's primed for a breakout in year three. However, Bryant still isn't a polished or disciplined route runner, and with Miles Austin returning 100% healthy for 2012, his PPR value is widely being overlooked. As a WR2, I'm thrilled.
Round 6.6- The WRs begin to thin out here a bit, but I'm still in great shape to snag a number one WR (always my intent) as my number three WR. Reggie Wayne can still ￼ball, and with Andrew Luck under center, he'll surely be his most trusted target in his rookie campaign. Much in the way Steve Smith was brought back to life in Carolina when Cam Newton arrived, I'm banking on Luck being a B-12 shot for Reggie Wayne.
Round 7.7- Same rule applies to TEs as it does for WRs, my goal is to target number one options in offenses whenever possible, but most importantly, be sure you're still drafting for value. In this case, another player fell into my lap, in the form of Antonio Gates. Sure there are some concerns over injury for Gates, but even with Vincent Jackson in tow last year, Gates was still Rivers' go-to target. Exit Jackson, enter Meachem and Royal...and I'm still not worried. Waiting until round seven for a TE and coming away with Antonio Gates? Amazing.
Round 8.6- Because I drafted Michael Vick and liked (not love) the values in this round, I opted to back him up early, and go with the sneaky upside of Jay Cutler. Gabe Carimi returns healthy this year, and they added trusted go-to WR Brandon Marshall via free agency, and one of my favorite big WRs in the Draft, Alshon Jeffery. Gone are the QB defeating 7-step drops of the Mike Martz offense, and Cutler becomes a needed insurance policy with high upside.
Round 9.7- Maybe I had Cutler on the mind from the last round, but I'm an Alshon Jeffery fan, and a WR corps without viable stars (aside from Marshall), opens the door for Jeffery to have a solid rookie campaign, especially in PPR formats.
Round 10.6- I don't love Justin Blackmon, but who else does Blaine Gabbert have to throw to? They drafted the headcase for a reason, to make plays. If he avoids trouble here on out, he comes away as the defacto #1 WR, one that might not have MJD in tow. Blackmon will be busy, so volume is key.
Round 11.7- These are the rounds where you attempt to stack your deck and add depth. The New Orleans backfield is a quagmire right now, with only Darren Sproles sustaining any real value in PPR. I'll gladly take the clock-killer Pierre Thomas in the 11th, over the risky Mark Ingram several rounds earlier.
Round 12.6- Sensing a theme here? The Niners added LaMichael James via the Draft, and inconsistent Brandon Jacobs via Free Agency, but Kendall Hunter is the one to watch. He showed explosiveness when called to duty last year, and the Niners don't entirely trust Frank Gore's robo-knees.. and neither do I at this point.
￼Round 13.7- Adding more depth at TE at this point, and I stick to the tried and true method of "look for a guy with a shot to be the number one target." Big Kyle Rudolph has that tag. He could certainly be a big contributor early on (especially if Peterson misses more than a few games), as a check-down option for Christian Ponder.
Round 14.6- You know by now, I'm no fan of "Shanahanigans," but if you're going to roll the dice on a Redskin RB, it might as well be Tim Hightower in round 14. If he's the week one starter, let his value beef up, and dump him in a trade for RB depth on more stable footing. As much as I like Helu, I think Shanahan is too unpredictable in his RB reps, so this is where you need to look...late, and with minimal risk.
Round 15.7- I generally don't draft team defenses unless it is required, and in this case it was, so I went with upside. Co-founder of @2Mugsff, Ryan Forbes, can tell you with certainty that I'm a big fan of the Chiefs defense. The Chiefs lost one of their best players last year due to injury in Eric Berry, and a decimated offense made it even tougher to score, and thus put even more pressure on this talented young defense. The upside? Berry is back to anchor one of the best secondaries in the NFL, and players like Hali, Johnson and 2nd year pass rusher Justin Houston, all promise to wreak havoc on the opposing QBs of the AFC West. Dontari Poe is the wild card here. If he exceeds expectation in year one? Look out, this defense will be a strong fantasy selection.
Round 16.6- Much like team defenses, I usually wait to take one post-draft off waivers. Again, seeing as it was required, I opted for Rob Bironas. Why? Because his name reminds me of the Knack song, "My Sharona"...and who gives a shit, he's a kicker. If your week to week wins weigh heavy on a kicker's performance, you had a shitty draft. Find a new passion.
To wrap up this baby in a pretty pink bow, here's what I did in a nutshell...
1. Grabbed my RBs early-McFadden and Forte allowed me to attack the WRs in the middle of the draft, because after Calvin Johnson, the drop off is considerable for several rounds, thus making the value consistent.
2. Don't chase values, they'll come to you- Vick in the 4th round and Gates in the 7th are clear examples. Big time scoring machines, now healthy and ready to punch people in the grill. Too easy.
3. Once you get your foundation players, go for the upside- Pick up proven guys in murky situations (Thomas and Hightower), and young bucks who are expected to have big roles (Jeffery and Blackmon). There's little risk at this point, so this is when you point and shoot and pick off depth.