Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Last night, I was privileged to join the third annual National Football Post (NFP) Experts League draft.  Represented were ESPN, Yahoo!, CBS Sports, Hardcore Sports Radio, Fantasy Sharks, Rotoworld, NFL Gridiron Gab, NFP and the freelance SI.com writer, myself (Just a Bit Outside was the podcast I was doing all last year) - it may yet revive.  However, I digress -- it was 10-team, 16 round draft, standard scoring applies, except that we only lose one point per fumble and no lost points for interceptions.  We also get defensives bonuses for the number of yards given up and an additional point for forced fumbles.  Our starting lineups are QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, FLEX, D/ST, K.  For easy scanning, I have capitalized the picks I made.
So here we go:

I don't feel my job as an expert is to "call out" my cohorts on their draft strategies, as drafts take on a life of their own, and your perspective during a draft can change very quickly.  Rather, I will try to take you into the way I was thinking during this particular draft.  Pardon the imaging but I think you can make out the names and positions all right, and if you click on the image, I think it will enlarge for you.

Slotted in the ninth position in a ten team draft, I already had an idea that with these guys, RBs were going to be hoarded and I would have a tough first decision to make. Sure enough, the first six picks went that way.  Chris Wessling at Rotoworld chanced Michael Vick at the seventh overall selection, and Brandon Funston at Yahoo! took Michael Turner.  Now, I had already figured that none of my top five RBs would be available, but surprisingly, MJD was still around.  I found myself in a conundrum.  MJD is a terrific PPR guy, but I'm not as high on him as a pure runner, particularly in Jacksonville, where David Garrard is nursing a disc injury in his back leaving the rookie QB Blaine Gabbert to take the reins.  Take out any huge receiving threats, though Mike Thomas is a guy some are high on, and you wonder is anyone going to play the pass against Jack Del Rio's crew?  So I had a choice, take a possibly elite, returning-from-injury RB who might get a lesser load this year, or an elite WR.  I went with what I consider the best WR in the game in RODDY WHITE  Johnson's injury problems are the only thing that kept me away from him with this selection.  As of this posting he's already got a finger injury.

I was hoping MJD would go next so I would get my real favorite back this year, Darren McFadden.  However, as is apt to happen, Matt Loede of NFL Gridiron Gab "unLOEDE-d" me of that hope by selecting McFadden 10th and grabbing Andre Johnson as the first pick of the second round.  I decided to stick to my original strategy, because I had backs I was aiming for that I felt (and maybe wrongly so) had more upside at the place I'd get them.  Some will probably look at passing on MJD here as a mistake, but since this is a 3-WR starting lineup plus flex, I went with another elite receiver in GREG JENNINGS.  If Green Bay is going anywhere this year, they need him more than ever as Donald Driver likely will continue his decline, and James Jones and Jordy Nelson, while serviceable, don't scare a whole lot of defenses.

Sure enough, when the draft returned to me with pick 29, I selected AHMAD BRADSHAW as my first RB.  Then I followed it up with LEGARRETTE BLOUNT, the second guy I hoped to get.  Bradshaw is obviously an injury risk but I still love the way he plays the game.  He's aggressive, tough and explosive.  Blount scares everyone, mainly because he might let loose on you with his temper at any time, but five yards per carry and a 1000 yards in only 201 carries behind a decent Tampa Bay line in only 13 games and I'm willing to go with this upside play.  These were two guys I expected to fall to me, and planned accordingly from my mocks.  Let's hope I was right that they'll be solid this year. 

When pick 49 came around, I had no plan on grabbing another running back.  Originally I was hoping I might get another receiver.  When Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant evaporated, I went with DALLAS CLARK at TE.  Both he and Finley (who went seven picks earlier) are returning from season-ending injuries of 2010, and either would have suited me fine.  With Peyton Manning recovering well and expected to be under center, I'll take his favorite red zone target. 

My fifth round pick was going to be a third receiver finishing my starting group and making it incredibly strong in my eyes.  My hope was I would grab someone like Ryan Grant later, who is off everyone's radar this year.  I could have gone Wes Welker, and really wanted to.  But with KNOWSHON MORENO sitting there in the sixth round, I had to grab him.  He's a lock to start, and it's clear Denver will put Kyle Orton under center, making Brandon Lloyd and me much happier.  He averaged 4.3 per carry and had 8 total TDs.  I don't think McGahee or Lance Ball make a dent in his workload, and I expect that it will increase this year.  It was hard to pass up Welker, which might have made me receiver dominant, but I felt strong enough there to add another decent runner who could have upside.

One thing I didn't expect was the feasting on QBs that happened.  Five QBs went in the fourth round, even with the 4-pt TD scoring, including Schaub, Rivers and a favorite of mine, Tony Romo.  After that, there was almost no point in drafting one for the next few rounds, and I could have probably waited another round.  I was caught between Josh Freeman and Matthew Stafford.  I think Detroit has more upside this year if Stafford can remain healthy (a big "if" on that one) and continues to throw as accurately as they report he does.  So I chose MATTHEW STAFFORD.  I would have taken my most favorite underdog receive this year, Austin Collie, but Chris Wessling of Rotoworld took him before me.  In Round Eight, I found RYAN GRANT sitting around like I hoped and couldn't pass up the Green Bay starting running back.  Grant's known for starting infamously slow but for all his injury issues until last year's big knee/ankle combo, Grant has managed an average of 15 games 1000+ yards over three seasons.  He's only 28 and because this injury occurred in September is nearly a year out of surgery.  James Starks could easily steal away carries, but again, I'll take even the RB1 of a committee on the Super Bowl Champs this late.

So my team after eight rounds shaped up like this.

QB - Matthew Stafford -DET
RB - Ahmad Bradshaw - NYG
RB - LeGarrette Blount - TAM
WR - Roddy White - ATL
WR - Greg Jennings - GB
TE - Dallas Clark
FLEX - Knowshon Moreno - DEN

BE - Ryan Grant - GB

Rounds 9-16 will follow tomorrow.  Comments and thoughts welcome.