USA Today Sports Weekly Mock Recap

On Tuesday, July 22, I participated in a 12-team, non-PPR mock draft with several industry leaders for USA Today Sports Weekly’s fantasy football special edition, which hits newsstands on August 4. I’ve been given permission to blog about the draft and my strategy, which is greatly appreciated, and I hope it sparks some discussion.

This was a non-PPR league with a relatively standard starting lineup – 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, W/R/T flex, K, D/ST. We were allowed to fill seven bench spots, as well.

I picked from the #9 spot, which I was excited to do because it’s a pretty interesting spot this year as most of the best RBs are off the board, and it could be an ideal spot for starting WR/WR or Graham/WR.

The draft grid is as follows (odd rounds read left to right, even rounds right to left. Click to enlarge):

USA Today Sports Weekly Mock Draft

Note that the empty 12th-round pick between Jordan Matthews and Carlos Hyde was meant to be Odell Beckham, and the empty 16th-round pick for Tuvey is meant to be Bryce Brown.

Here’s my team, and I’ll talk about my strategy afterward.

QB: Colin Kaepernick, Carson Palmer

RB: Le’Veon Bell, Ben Tate, Jeremy Hill, Chris Ivory, Carlos Hyde

WR: Demaryius Thomas, Pierre Garcon, Michael Crabtree, Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks

TE: Julius Thomas, Jared Cook

K: Steven Hauschka

D/ST: Cleveland

First of all, I was fully expecting to have to make a decision on Jimmy Graham at #9. I’m still not sure which way I’d go, but I do still get a case of the willies when thinking about drafting a TE in the first round. Fortunately, Graham went at pick #8 and my decision was easy, in my opinion – Demaryius Thomas. I think he’s got a legitimate shot to finish #1 at his position, and it was well worth snagging him at that spot ahead of someone like Marshawn Lynch, about whom I have questions, even in a non-PPR.

I was fully expecting to have to go WR/WR at this point of the draft, but a mini-run on the position pushed Le’Veon Bell to me in the second round, and I’m pleased with this spot. Although Bell is a 240-pound bruiser, I actually like him better in a PPR format than I do in this non-PPR format – he’s a skilled, smooth pass-catcher, but I think he gets hurt in non-PPR because of the looming presence of LeGarrette Blount around the goal line. Still, Bell’s skills as a three-down back make him a nice fit as my #1 RB in the second round of this draft. (I’ll take this time to note that I’m surprised Zac Stacy fell to the third round in a non-PPR draft. I’m not huge on Stacy this year but that’s a great spot for him.)

The third round is where things got interesting. I was looking for one of Randall Cobb, Antonio Brown, and Keenan Allen to fall to me, but I was equally surprised to see Julius Thomas there. I now have two of my first three picks invested in the Denver passing game, but I think there are worse investments to make. I was glad to see my top WR left, Pierre Garcon, fell to me in the fourth round, so he was an easy selection.

This does invite some discussion, however. At the time of the draft, news of Rob Gronkowski’s clearance for training camp hadn’t yet broken, although it did feel inevitable. I wonder how my team would look if I took Toby Gerhart in the third round and came back with Gronk in the fourth. I’d be clearly weak at WR, but I’d feel better about my RBs. Overall, I think I’d rather have the Julius/Garcon pairing, but it’s absolutely debatable. (As another aside, I think 3.11 and 3.12 are really early in a non-PPR for Bishop Sankey and Chris Johnson. Neither back was in consideration for me at that spot).

Speaking of the RB position, I think one thing many fantasy players will be finding after drafts is that they won’t be pleased with their #2 RB spot. I took Ben Tate late in the fifth round, which feels right in a non-PPR, but I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone if I say I’d prefer him as a #3. Knowing I had Tate, I wanted to target Browns rookie Terrance West, but he went a lot sooner than I thought he would – in the seventh round to FF Today. This leads me to second-guess my next pick. I took Michael Crabtree as my #3 WR/Flex, but in hindsight I think I may like my team more if I took Joique Bell (the next pick). The values at WR seemed to pile up in the later rounds, while the RBs just totally dried up.

Knowing I needed to build some upside on my bench at RB, I took two rookies I’m high on, Jeremy Hill and Carlos Hyde, and supplemented them with Chris Ivory, who should at least have a rotational role in New York with Chris Johnson. I’m not thrilled with Ivory, but he shouldn’t hurt me as much in a non-PPR in the event I have to use him. Here’s my feeling: just like recent years, I believe savvy fantasy players will be able to scrape together productive RB2 weeks from a solid bench and a watchful eye on the Waiver Wire. That would be my strategy with this team if I were actually playing the season out. My gut is Tate should have at least a month of starter’s snaps, presuming he’s healthy, and that month can buy me time to evaluate the rest of the backs on my roster.

As for the rest of my WRs, I’m thrilled to have both Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks. Colston was actually in consideration for me at 6.4, when I took Crabtree, so I was ecstatic to get him at 7.9 (and this was the main reason I second-guessed not taking Joique). As for Cooks, I’m OK taking a second player catching passes from Drew Brees because I think he’s got a damn good shot of being the most productive rookie WR in a deep class.

Am I forgetting something? Oh yeah, how about a quarterback. I starting considering some passers around 7.9, when I took Colston, but I still thought there were enough quality players on the board that I could afford to wait. I was right. At 10.4, Jay Cutler had just gone off the board, but I still had a choice between Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. Newton has the track record, but I think Kaepernick’s in a better situation, and I also have Crabtree for a potentially effective double rainbow. Kaepernick it is, and I’m thrilled to get one of our top-10 QBs in the 10th round of a 12-team league. Yes, QBs tend to last longer in industry drafts, but I still think this shows the virtue in waiting for a QB in leagues of 12 teams or smaller (even 14, if you’re daring).

I filled out my bench with Carson Palmer, who was a top-10 fantasy QB in the second half of last season, and Jared Cook, whose upside I can’t let go of as a 13th-round pick (let’s ignore for a sec that he has the same bye as Julius. Hah).

So what does everyone think? How did I do? What would you have done differently? Any teams or picks in the whole draft that stand out to you as particularly good or bad?

Category: Joe Dolan

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One Response

  1. Fred says:

    Luck at 5.8, Richardson at 5.2 (who else is going to run the rock in Indy) and especially Dwayne Bowe at 10.11 seem like absolute steals to me. Once you were committed to waiting on a QB I love your pick of Kaep in the 10th – good move!

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