It’s that time when Pigskins are flying. Shoulder pads are cracking. Michael Vick’s ribs (or something in/on/around his body) are breaking. Football is back. And so is fantasy football.
Just as players and coaches have spent the last few weeks preparing for the regular season, millions of wannabe-GM’s around the country have been doing some prepping of their own, myself included.
Before breaking down my own picks, a few things that stood out from this draft:
- Michael Vick, arguably the most versatile quarterback in the league with an extreme fantasy football-upside, slipped to the 6th round. With two Eagles fans (counting myself) in this league of 12, it goes to show the confidence we all have in his ability to stay healthy. Personally, I contemplated taking him in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds as he continued to fall. I swore if he was sitting there in the 6th he would land on Team Stott, but he got selected two picks before mine.
- Tight Ends were shown some love. Seven were taken by the middle of the 6th round, and three went in that round alone. Rob Gronkowski, the peanut butter to Tom Brady’s jelly, the chocolate to his marshmallow, the fur lining to his Uggs boots, went 17th overall—the fifth pick in the 2nd round.
- Running backs no longer dominate the first round. This trend started last year and really held strong this year. As recent as the 2010 draft, if you didn’t take a running back with your first pick, you might as well have been considered an idiot, noob, fool, and a downright imbecile. Whereas RBs were basically guaranteed to be taken 1-8ish, it was an even five and five—five RBs, five non-RBs—through the first ten picks. The number one overall was Aaron Rodgers. This mainly has to do with the fact that there really aren’t many true dominant backs left in the league. Everywhere you look now, it’s a running back by committee setup.
- The first kicker (Stephen Gostkowski) went in round nine. This was a 16-round draft. Wayyyyy to early. Especially for someone who, while highly accurate, kicks in one of the harsher-weather stadiums when global warming isn’t ruining winter. Side note: Picking based on playing conditions is something I found myself doing a lot this year—I have a healthy dose of players from warm-weather areas of that play in a dome frequently (i.e. the South and West divisions in both conferences). Eleven of my 16 picks are from one of those four divisions.
OK, so how did it go down for me? It all started with having the proper War Room setup and getting in the drafting state of mind like so.
A setup like this only breeds success. Now onto the draft itself. Let’s have a look.
First pick (6th overall): Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Prior to the draft I was convinced that I would go QB first. I strongly considered making a reach for Cam Newton, but the struggles he had at the end of last season (only passing for more than 215 yards twice over the final 8 games, and a 1.25-1 TD-INT ratio), and his ehh preseason made me think twice. Brees, on the other hand, is coming off of a monster year statistically and finally was rewarded with a new contract. Some might say he’s got the makings of quite the letdown season. Anyone else that knows football, though, will tell you that he’s the heart and soul of that Saints team, and while Sean Payton is out for the year, Brees will man the ship, and it’ll follow. He’s only missed one game over the last seven seasons (week 17 in 2009 to rest for the playoffs), so he’s clearly durable—knock on wood. Brees has shown he can put them on his back and carry them to the Super Bowl, so what makes you think he’ll do anything less with the Saints or my fantasy team?
Second pick (19th overall): Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
No receiver had more targets that Roddy White last season. And only one receiver (wes Welker) had more receptions. White was in the top-ten in the league in yards, yards per game, and first down-converting catches. With Julio Jones proving to be another reliable weapon for Matty Ice, White could see softer coverage as teams try to pay attention to both men, thus leading to better production. It wouldn’t surprise me if the number of targets dropped, but I think his production will rise.
Third pick (30th overall): Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
He’s young, fresh, and the only reliable option for the Browns. Once fully recovered from a knee scope, Richardson will be heavily relied on to prop up Cleveland’s offense. The rookie QB will be handing the ball off to the rookie RB quite often, and while defenses will likely key-off on that, and focus heavily on the former Heisman-finalist, Richardson has the power, quickness, and ability to get by it all.
Fourth pick (43rd overall): Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
The heavy-hitting, bull-rushing Gore was able to get through a full season in 2011 for the first time in six seasons. Part of that was because his workload was decreased, which isn’t the best thing in the fantasy-world. But Gore still managed to rank 6th in the league in rushing. This could turn into one of those back-by-committee situations with Brandon Jacobs coming in and LaMichael James being drafted, but Gore is still numero uno here. He’s done me well in the past, so I’ll put my faith in him.
Fifth pick (54th overall): Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He’s got his new team, and a fresh start on the opposite coast. Vincent Jackson needs to produce now. There are some slight concerns about the system he’s in under his new head coach Greg Schiano who is known for having a run-heavy offense. Also, Josh Freeman is a pretty significant downgrade at the ball-thrower position from Phillip Rivers, but Jackson’s size can make up for that. He knows how to go up and find the ball when it’s tossed his way. Fingers crossed that this one pans out.
Sixth pick (67th overall): Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
The Catch 2. The emotion he showed after he and Alex Smith willed the 49ers to the NFC title game was enough to sell me on this guy. With TEs falling off the board quickly at this point, I needed to snag Davis while he was still on the board. Offensively, San Fran was nowhere near the top in any category, but Davis was a major bright spot in an otherwise bleak system. He’s reliable, and an easy target to find. And now that Alex Smith has more weapons on the outside, Davis will be getting less attention. He’s going to cause match-up problems for a lot of defenses this year.
Seventh pick (78th overall): Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco likes to take shots down the field—he was tied for third-most in the league with Philip Rivers. Torrey Smith is usually the target of those deep balls, and if Flacco was just a bit more accurate, Smith’s numbers could balloon.
Eighth pick (91st overall): Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
I’m hoping this turns into a keeper league. He doesn’t have the speed and agility, per se, of a Cam Newton or RGIII, but Andrew Luck has shown—throughout his college career, and this preseason—that he’s the real deal. All of the talk has been about how he would handle stepping into Peyton’s old role. The answer: Just fine. Even after making some basic mistakes against the first-team Steelers defense, Luck was able to manufacture two long scoring drives. Those intangibles that Mel Kiper Jr. loves to talk about and stress (like he even knows what they are), this kid has. Maybe he doesn’t start the season with two 400+ yard passing games, but he will be consistent, and he will be good.
Ninth pick (102nd overall): Baltimore Ravens D/ST
I contemplated here between the Bears and Ravens defenses. It would have been a coin flip, but I decided to analyze. Of the offenses in their divisions, I’d much rather go with the Ravens who don’t have to face Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, and Adrian Peterson twice a year. The Ravens defense has been a dominant force for the better part of the last decade. Baltimore is definitely creeping up there in age, but I’ll take my chances against a rookie and sophomore quarterback, and Big Ben who is the league’s most-sacked QB. The other deciding factor? Look at the rankings by points per game of the offenses these teams faced last year: Chicago had Green Bay (1), Detroit (4), and Minnesota (19), while Baltimore had Cincinnati (18), Pittsburgh (21), and Cleveland (30). Points are going to be hard to come by in the AFC North.
Tenth pick (115th overall): LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Aside from punching people, he can do things like this. Snagging the starting back for the Bucs this far down seemed like a no-brainer as well. Blount can be a game changer when he’s on. The problem has been that the Bucs get down and have to start slinging the ball around the field to try and keep up. Schiano’s defensive mindset should keep this team in closer games, games that need time management and more running of the ball which Blount will be called on to do. This could be a breakout year for the former Oregon Duck.
Eleventh pick (126th overall): Darrius Heyward-Bay, WR, Oakland Raiders
It’s getting pretty thin now. Heyward-Bay is a great talent. The problem is he’s got no one to get the ball to him. In nearly any other system, this guy would have Pro Bowl numbers year-in and year-out. He showed flashes last year, but I need to see more consistency. Jacoby Ford will steal looks with his speed, but Heyward-Bay. He’s only two inches and 20 pounds smaller than the man known as Megatron, so he’s got the makings of a man who can own the ball—if he can get his hands on it.
Twelfth pick (139th overall): Terrell Owens, WR, Seattle Seahawks
This is his last shot. He’s got one year to prove that there’s something left in the tank. One season to show that he still deserves to be on the gridiron on Sunday’s. This was a bit of a long-shot pick, but for as big of a diva as he is, Owens has shows he’s willing to play through a lot (so long as you throw the ball his way). Maybe his patience wears out after a few weeks and he decides he’s done with the game. As long as I get at least two TDs and one 100-yard game, I’ll call this pick a success. It’s more nostalgic than anything, and could completely blow up in my face if he doesn’t make the Week 1 roster.
Thirteenth and Fourteenth picks (150th and 163rd overall): Brent Celek, TE, and Dion Lewis, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
I couldn’t go an entire draft without picking someone from the hometown team. And once I started I just couldn’t seem to stop. Celek is a pick I’m confident in especially this deep in the draft. He’s a viable backup to Vernon Davis, and will be a reliable weapon to Vick or Kafka, or Foles, or whoever is healthy enough to start at QB in the city of brotherly love. Lewis is a bit of a steal if you ask me, in the third-to-last round. LeSean McCoy has shown good health, but one strange tackle, and his former Pitt-teammate will be tasked with stepping in as the number-one back. He’ll get some spell-time as well, and might serve as a good flex-start option. Fly, Eagles, fly.
Fifteenth pick (174th overall): Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons
One thing I’ve always failed to do in these drafts is give myself enough options at running back or wide receiver. Usually it’s because I draft two defenses or three QBs. Not this year. Snelling has gotten lots of love from Adam Schefter over the years as a great spell back to Michael Turner, and I finally decided to show him some of my own. Maybe he sits on the bench all season for me and Atlanta, but maybe Turner gets hit with a nagging injury and Snells gets called on. Better to have the option.
Sixteenth pick (187th overall): Josh Scobee, K, Jacksonville Jaguars
Watching the rerun of the Jags-Saints preseason tilt during the draft was all I needed to see to swoop Josh Scobee off of the big board. He was nowhere near the top of ESPN’s kicker rankings, but watching him easily boot field goals of good distance, and knowing that he plays mainly in warm weather and domes was enough to convince me that he would be my kicker. Plus his name sounds cool. That’s all the analysis this pick needs.
So what are your thoughts? What picks do you like? Which do you think I’m an idiot for making? Maybe you had a draft of your own and want to share your picks. Have at it!