FantasyPros Invitational: Draft Recap (2018 Fantasy Football)
There are a lot of expert fantasy football leagues out there. The Scott Fish Bowl is an annual event in the fantasy community, pairing hundreds of analysts and fans in a single fantasy football league that can only be described as “bananas.” The Fantasy League of Experts pits some of the best and brightest against each other each year. And nearly every fantasy website has an internal league consisting of its own analysts.
But we had a thought. What if we invited the most accurate experts from 2017 to compete in a massively-complex league with a scoring system so complicated it would take three full days to read and digest every nuance of the league constitution? Would that be something that those experts would be interested in doing?
The short answer was no, no they would not. But they WERE interested in getting together for a 12-team, 0.5 PPR league using pretty standard settings all around. And that’s what we’ve got with the FantasyPros Invitational.
Here’s the deal: if you followed the advice of any of the analysts in this league last year, then you probably did pretty well. These guys were, simply put, some of the best of the best in 2017. That’s not a subjective opinion. That’s literally what we determine here at FantasyPros.
Here’s the list of experts:
Jake Ciely (@allinkid)
Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe)
Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle)
Justin Boone (@justinboone)
Dave Major (@RealDaveMajor)
Bill Enright (@BillEnright)
Pat Fitzmaurice (@Fitz_FF)
Rob Waziak (@WazNFL)
Nick Mariano (@NMariano53)
Rudy Gamble (@rudygamble)
Sean Koerner (@The_Oddsmaker)
Dan Harris (@danharris80)
So, here’s how it’s going to work. Every analyst in this league wants to win it, and be crowned the official: “Winner of the Inaugural League that Consists of Only the Most Accurate Experts from the Previous Season” [Editor’s note: We are working on a better name]. So, we’re going to keep you informed about it all year. You want to see what the most accurate experts do in an actual draft that matters using a scoring system that you probably use? You want to see how they spend their FAAB throughout the season? We’ve got you covered.
You can check out the league anytime throughout the season, and if you just want to check out the draft results, they’re provided below. But if you want a little peak behind the curtain to hear about what goes through the mind of the most accurate experts during their drafts, well, keep reading. I’ve asked each expert a few questions about their draft (myself included, and yes, it was weird when I sat in front of a mirror and interviewed myself), and they graciously provided feedback. They also give a little more detail about where you can find more of their insanely accurate work. So if you want to get more information about some of the most insightful minds in the fantasy football world, have a read.
Pick 12: Jake Ciely (@allinkid)
2017 accuracy finish: 1st in draft accuracy, 18th in in-season accuracy
Other notable finishes: Draft accuracy: 2016: 6th, 2015: 11th; In-season accuracy: 2016: 13th, 2015: 2nd, 2014: 4th, 2013: 4th.
1. (12) Kareem Hunt (KC – RB)
2. (13) Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG – WR)
3. (36) Doug Baldwin (Sea – WR)
4. (37) Allen Robinson II (Chi – WR)
5. (60) Rex Burkhead (NE – RB)
6. (61) Kerryon Johnson (Det – RB)
7. (84) Trey Burton (Chi – TE)
8. (85) Julian Edelman (NE – WR)
9. (108) Andrew Luck (Ind – QB)
10. (109) Adrian Peterson (Was – RB)
11. (132) Jordan Wilkins (Ind – RB)
12. (133) DeVante Parker (Mia – WR)
13. (156) Dez Bryant (Dal – WR)
14. (157) Minnesota (Min – DEF)
15. (180) Jonathan Williams (NO – RB)
You clearly were unhappy with being saddled with the last pick. How did the draft slot affect your strategy?
Any time you’re on the turn, you have to plan ahead for positional runs. I also tested out going RB/WR at the 1/2 turn knowing it would probably burn me . . . and it did. Back to the run concern though, that’s why I went Trey Burton and Andrew Luck when I did, and I would have made the same picks in hindsight (not the 1/2 turn though . . . that would have been RB/RB with Leonard Fournette).
One of the few picks that evoked an audible groan from the group was when you nabbed Andrew Luck with the last pick of the ninth round (pick 108 versus his ECR of 89th). But even you have to admit there’s some risk with rolling with Luck and no backup, given that we’ve yet to see him throw the ball more than 20 or so yards down the field, right? How confident are you in Luck and what are your expectations for him this year?
I don’t think there is at this point. No more risk than people taking Deshaun Watson or Aaron Rodgers without a backup. He’s looked fine all throughout the preseason. A little rust? Sure. But if Luck bombs because he’s not as good anymore, that’s more of an issue that won’t be fixed by having a backup.
Adrian Peterson in the 10th round. Do you think he’s got enough left in the tank to be a viable fantasy option at some point this season?
I think he has enough to warrant rostering for a few weeks until some waiver wire options pop up. It’s the 10th round, too. If he gives me five games of Flex level production, that’s pretty much 10th round value.
What was your favorite pick of your draft and the one you regret the most?
I already mentioned that I wouldn’t have taken Odell Beckham if I wasn’t trying something “new” since all my previous 11th and 12th draft spots have started RB/RB. There is a close battle between three picks for my favorite: Luck, Doug Baldwin and DeVante Parker. Baldwin falling to the end of the third is going to be a tremendous gift if ready Week 1. And, I’m one of the biggest Parker haters out there, but Parker that late? At that point, he’s finally worth it as there is nothing but potential upside there.
You’re renowned for your uncanny accuracy as a fantasy football ranker. Where can we find you and your work?
The easiest way is just to follow me @allinkid, as I tweet out everything, all of the time. But . . . more precisely, I’m the Senior Writer for fantasy football over at The Athletic. I’m also on a seemingly never-ending run of guest spots and videos . . . so like I said, follow me and #CheckTheLink.
Pick 11: Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe)
2017 accuracy finish: 23rd in draft accuracy, 15th in in-season accuracy
Other notable finishes: Draft accuracy: 2016: 7th, 2015: 16th, 2014: 13th, 2013: 7th, 2011: 9th; In-season accuracy: 2016: 2nd, 2015: 4th, 2014: 7th, 2013: 8th, 2012: 13th, 2011: 6th.
1. (11) Julio Jones (Atl – WR)
2. (14) Leonard Fournette (Jax – RB)
3. (35) Zach Ertz (Phi – TE)
4. (38) Larry Fitzgerald (Ari – WR)
5. (59) Rashaad Penny (Sea – RB)
6. (62) Isaiah Crowell (NYJ – RB)
7. (83) Ronald Jones II (TB – RB)
8. (86) Devin Funchess (Car – WR)
9. (107) Sterling Shepard (NYG – WR)
10. (110) Carson Wentz (Phi – QB)
11. (131) Anthony Miller (Chi – WR)
12. (134) Chris Godwin (TB – WR)
13. (155) D’Onta Foreman (Hou – RB)
14. (158) Patrick Mahomes II (KC – QB)
15. (179) Chicago (Chi – DEF)
On a scale of 1-10, I’d say I’m about an eight that one of those three will emerge as a solid every-week RB2. Obviously, both rookies have dropped off in value during the preseason, but I’m not worried about them being factors in September. Both were plays for mid- to late-season value. Crowell may not have a ton of favorable game scripts, but he’s playing good football and will have the opportunity to be the Jets’ clear lead back.
Did you go into the draft with a specific strategy, particularly with drafting near the turn? If so, what was it and do you think you executed it successfully?
Running back is so tricky in this year’s drafts. Because so many went in the early rounds, the opportunity presented itself to use a hybrid zero-RB approach. I didn’t go into the draft with this plan. In fact, I never go into any draft with one specific strategy in mind. Instead, I prefer coming in with an arsenal of different strategies and then deploying what I need based on the conditions of the draft. But the thing about going with any form of zero-RB is that it can only be successful if you fully commit. I feel I did exactly that, and am happy with how the strategy was executed.
What was your favorite pick of your draft and the one you regret the most if any?
My favorite pick in nearly every draft I’ve been in this year has been the same player: Anthony Miller. The rookie wideout has mouthwatering fantasy potential and should enter the season as the Bears’ No. 2 option. It’s tough to single out any picks that I regret. Overall, I’m happy with the results.
Name one (or more) pick(s) other than your own that you thought represented great value.
Industry analysts tend to wait a long time at quarterback, but Carson Wentz and Patrick Mahomes were crazy good values. Wentz was on pace for 40 touchdown passes last season and was second at the position in fantasy scoring when he got hurt. Sure, he could miss a week or two, but he’s a steal in the 10th round. I was honestly considering not drafting a backup, but Mahomes was still there with my final skill position pick. Honestly, I would have been happy taking Mahomes in the 10th round. His massive ceiling is very appealing at this discounted price.
You’ve been participating and succeeding in the accuracy competitions for years. Where can we find more of you and your work?
You can check me out over at ProFootballFocus.com, on the PFF Fantasy Football Podcast, on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, on That Other Pregame Show on CBS Sports network and on Twitter @JeffRatcliffe
Pick 10: Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle)
2017 accuracy finish: 6th in in-season accuracy
Other notable finishes: In-season accuracy: 2016: 16th, 2015: 12th.
1. (10) Melvin Gordon (LAC – RB)
2. (15) Christian McCaffrey (Car – RB)
3. (34) LeSean McCoy (Buf – RB)
4. (39) Amari Cooper (Oak – WR)
5. (58) Josh Gordon (Cle – WR)
6. (63) Tevin Coleman (Atl – RB)
7. (82) Robby Anderson (NYJ – WR)
8. (87) Sammy Watkins (KC – WR)
9. (106) James White (NE – RB)
10. (111) David Njoku (Cle – TE)
11. (130) Theo Riddick (Det – RB)
12. (135) John Brown (Bal – WR)
13. (154) John Ross (Cin – WR)
14. (159) Rob Kelley (Was – RB)
15. (178) DeSean Jackson (TB – WR)
Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room. You did not draft a starting quarterback. As the inventor of the zero-QB strategy, explain the thought process behind it.
My thinking is that I can always pick a quarterback up off of waivers right before Week 1 games start. And there are some available quarterbacks I can probably live with: Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, and Tyrod Taylor, for instance. At this point, I’d rather have one more wide receiver or running back on the roster. I can always cut that player after the preseason, once I have a better idea of how teams will use their players.
Despite it being a three-receiver, 1/2 PPR league, you drafted running backs with each of your first three picks. Planned strategy going in or was it all about value?
I didn’t really plan to draft three running backs, but it’s not uncommon for me to do so. With three backs at the top of the roster, I have a (theoretically) robust backfield, and my slot position is occupied by someone who should see a good number of touches per game. Additionally, I like a lot of the wide receivers available in the middle and late rounds, so I don’t feel all that much as if I missed out by avoiding receivers to start the draft.
Your receiving group is full of high-upside players who could miss time due to a variety of factors (Robby Anderson and a potential suspension, Josh Gordon and his addiction issues, John Brown and his injuries). How confident are you in your wide receivers?
I have little confidence in my wide receivers, and that’s totally fine with me. All of them are upside selections. The goal is to beat 11 other people, and that’s probably not going to happen if I don’t systematically incorporate risk into my drafting process. And if my wide receiver unit implodes? That’s fine. If I don’t win the league, I don’t really care where I finish.
What was your favorite pick of your draft and the one you most regret?
My favorite pick was probably DeSean Jackson in the last round. He wasn’t great last year, but he still has 1,000-yard potential and is a starting wide receiver. He represents great value. I most regret taking Watkins in Round 8, not because he’s a bad value there but because Randall Cobb was still on the board and I totally overlooked him. That was such a stupid mistake.
Where can we find more of you and your work?
My rankings (along with Sean Koerner’s) can be found at The Action Network, where I also have a number of articles.
Pick 9: Justin Boone (@justinboone)
2017 accuracy finish: 16th in draft accuracy, 4th in in-season accuracy
Other notable finishes: Draft accuracy: 2016: 20th, 2015: 7th, 2014: 11th, 2013: 7th, 2011: 9th; In-season accuracy: 2016: 7th, 2015: 6th, 2014: 3rd, 2013: 11th, 2012: 8th.
1. (9) DeAndre Hopkins (Hou – WR)
2. (16) Dalvin Cook (Min – RB)
3. (33) Jerick McKinnon (SF – RB)
4. (40) Jay Ajayi (Phi – RB)
5. (57) Chris Hogan (NE – WR)
6. (64) Deshaun Watson (Hou – QB)
7. (81) Sony Michel (NE – RB)
8. (88) Delanie Walker (Ten – TE)
9. (105) Nelson Agholor (Phi – WR)
10. (112) D.J. Moore (Car – WR)
11. (129) Matt Breida (SF – RB)
12. (136) Michael Gallup (Dal – WR)
13. (153) Nick Chubb (Cle – RB)
14. (160) James Conner (Pit – RB)
15. (177) Houston (Hou – DEF)
You were the last owner to fill out your wide receiving group, waiting until Round 9 to draft your third receiver (Nelson Agholor). Was that an intentional strategy or is it just how things unfolded on draft night, and how do you feel about your receivers overall?
I rarely go into a draft with a set strategy, but this year I’ve found myself willing to wait on receivers because the position is so deep. Guys like Agholor, D.J. Moore, and Michael Gallup have WR2/WR3 upside with a very inexpensive price tag. I’d include other wideouts like Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Anthony Miller and Keelan Cole in that group. I’m also very happy with DeAndre Hopkins and Chris Hogan as my WR1 and WR2, so it allowed me to gamble a bit with my final receiver spot.
You drafted Deshaun Watson as the fourth quarterback off the board with no backup. Do you have any concerns at all regarding his injury or potential regression?
None. Watson will be under center Week 1. I do expect some regression, but his numbers were so high last season that he’ll still be a top-five fantasy QB even with a dip in his production. If the worst-case scenario were to play out, there’s always options on the waiver wire to fall back on, like Mitch Trubisky, Dak Prescott, and Derek Carr.
What was your favorite and least favorite pick of your draft?
Getting Chris Hogan in the fifth round always feels like I’ve cheated the league in some way. Hogan is a rock-solid WR2 with WR1 upside, which we saw from him during the first half of the 2017 season before he got hurt. I felt compelled to take Delanie Walker in the eighth round as the ninth tight end off the board, I just can’t say I felt great about it due to his uncertain injury status. We’ve seen toe issues destroy Jordan Reed‘s value, and at Walker’s age I’m hoping this isn’t the beginning of the end.
Name one (or more) pick(s) other than your own that you thought represented great value.
On two occasions I passed on players thinking I would draft them in the next round. Both times, Jeff Ratcliffe scooped that player up a couple picks later. Anthony Miller in the 11th round and D’Onta Foreman in the 13th. Foreman was particularly intriguing because of the IR spot we have. If he gets placed on PUP to start the year, you should be able to stash him on IR and pick up someone off waivers.
You’re legitimately one of the most accurate experts every single year, without fail. Where can we find more of you and your work?
I’ve recently moved into a new role at theScore, which allows me to focus all my attention on fantasy football. So I’m hoping that means I’ll be THE most accurate expert this season. Follow me on Twitter (@justinboone) to see how that turns out. Anyone looking for my content can find it by downloading theScore app (http://company.thescore.com/). That’ll give you access to our 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit (https://www.thescore.com/nfl/news/1484257), which is updated daily and is 100 percent free. I’m also hosting theScore Fantasy Football Podcast (thesco.re/2wmoycz ), where you can catch me twice a week.
Pick 8: Dave Major (@RealDaveMajor)
2017 accuracy finish: 8th in in-season accuracy
Other notable finishes: In-season accuracy: 2016: 5th, 2015: 14th.
1. (8) Aaron Rodgers (GB – QB)
2. (17) Rob Gronkowski (NE – TE)
3. (32) Kenyan Drake (Mia – RB)
4. (41) Jarvis Landry (Cle – WR)
5. (56) Tom Brady (NE – QB)
6. (65) Marquise Goodwin (SF – WR)
7. (80) Chris Carson (Sea – RB)
8. (89) Chris Thompson (Was – RB)
9. (104) Kelvin Benjamin (Buf – WR)
10. (113) Jack Doyle (Ind – TE)
11. (128) Jacksonville (Jax – DEF)
12. (137) James Washington (Pit – WR)
13. (152) Dede Westbrook (Jax – WR)
14. (161) LeGarrette Blount (Det – RB)
15. (176) Terrelle Pryor Sr. (NYJ – WR)
After looking at how your draft unfolded, it’s pretty obvious that everyone has the same question: What was your strategy behind taking Jack Doyle in the 10th round . . .? No, obviously, everyone’s been asking about taking Aaron Rodgers in the first round and Tom Brady in the fifth, especially with this being a single-quarterback league. Tell the truth – did you think it was a two-QB or a superflex league, or is everyone else playing checkers while you’re playing chess?
Times certainly come where it makes sense to bail from taking the best player in order to fill a gap in your lineup. However, the overriding strategy on draft day — and every day of the fantasy year — is to roster the most talented player. Owning both of the top two quarterbacks was a no-brainer at the bargain basement price of 56th overall. The next eight picks tell everything you need to know about value. Five of eight are potentially committee running backs, three are wide receivers with question marks who may not lead their own NFL team in catches, and one quarterback with six starts in his career. I was also promised free Uggs with every purchase.
You drafted only one running back through the first six rounds. Are you confident that Chris Carson and/or Chris Thompson can be weekly starters for you?
The top of the running back board appeared very shallow in 2018. After the first four backs — Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, and Todd Gurley — the uncertainties begin. I’ll say that I do love Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette, and believe Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake to be among the most under-drafted players of 2018.
It would be hard to dispute this as the league’s best roster at tight end and quarterback, and running back remains the easiest position to find suitable replacements after draft day. Could Rashaad Penny and Kerryon Johnson earn the workload of a feature back and finish top four in scoring? Of course. If you play this as an odds game, though, like poker over time, the numbers don’t command players in this class.
Casually speaking, I would probably suggest Brady to have well over 90-percent chance of finishing top two among passers, and give those rushers about 50-percent likelihood to lead their teams in carries. I’m confident with my bet against yours over 100 seasons of fantasy. Either way, it’s sure going to be fun watching the results!
Adding to what I will hereby refer to as the boldest draft in the history of drafts, you were the first owner to draft a DST, taking the Jaguars in Round 11 while everyone else waited until Round 14, at least. Tell us about that pick.
If you put faith in Joe Bryant’s school of Value-Based Drafting, the Jaguars have to enter the conversation as one of the most valuable picks of the draft board. Only time will tell if this team can afford the zigs to everyone’s zags. Might be time to read up on the league’s 12th place penalty!
What was your favorite pick you made and the one you regret the most?
As I was mid-explanation for the Tom Brady selection, I was about to begin criticizing the 65th overall pick, Marquise Goodwin. “What bozo made that pick?” Just a few minutes later, I realized that bozo was me! I like the guy, but it definitely remains to be seen whether this Jimmy Garoppolo Hype Train — and all its collateral damage — will make it to the station.
Jarvis Landry led all receivers in 2017 receptions, and has nowhere to go but up in terms of quarterback play. Last year, Jay Cutler finished 19th in completion percentage and 26th in passing yards. I’m covered in goosebumps looking back at the value of my find at 41st overall.
Where can we find more of you and your work?
Check me out on Twitter (@RealDaveMajor) and at XN Sports. You might spot me around New York performing stand-up comedy. Don’t be afraid to reach out! Always excited to talk keepers and trades with fellow football lovers.
Pick 7: Bill Enright (@BillEnright)
2017 accuracy finish: 10th in in-season accuracy
Other notable finishes: In-season accuracy: 2016: 3rd.
1. (7) Saquon Barkley (NYG – RB)
2. (18) Davante Adams (GB – WR)
3. (31) Alex Collins (Bal – RB)
4. (42) Royce Freeman (Den – RB)
5. (55) Cooper Kupp (LAR – WR)
6. (66) Jimmy Graham (GB – TE)
7. (79) Alshon Jeffery (Phi – WR)
8. (90) Duke Johnson Jr. (Cle – RB)
9. (103) Ty Montgomery (GB – RB)
10. (114) Kirk Cousins (Min – QB)
11. (127) Taywan Taylor (Ten – WR)
12. (138) Josh Doctson (Was – WR)
13. (151) C.J. Anderson (Car – RB)
14. (162) Ben Roethlisberger (Pit – QB)
15. (175) Los Angeles (LAC – DEF)
In a three-receiver league, you went running back heavy, drafting RBs with three of your first four picks and in five of your first nine picks. Given that your third wide receiver is Alshon Jeffery who has injury concerns, are you comfortable with how your receiving group turned out and was that part of your strategy going into the draft?
I always put extra emphasis on grabbing RBs early. It’s the way I build the foundation for 99% of my teams. WR3s are easy to find or even stream if needed. That’s where the waiver wire is so crucial. Knowing what you are looking for in a free agent can help narrow your focus on players that are about to emerge throughout the season. That doesn’t happen as often with running backs. When it came time to grab a receiver in that WR3 range, I chose drafting Jimmy Graham instead, as he’s someone I envision can outproduce the WR3 I could have drafted in that round.
Royce Freeman has been flying up draft boards this preseason, but he still needs to contend with Devontae Booker. You took him with the sixth pick of Round 4. Are you confident he can be a reliable weekly starter for you?
For now I have him pinned as my flex with major RB2 upside. And if he doesn’t hit that upside, I’m still be satisfied with his production as a flex play. Booker had the opportunity to run away with this starting job, he’s the veteran, and yet most reports coming out of Denver point as Freeman being the one who is running away with it. One thing to note that I don’t really like about picking Freeman is he’s my second rookie back on the squad, I’m banking on a lot of unproven production in the NFL.
What was your favorite and least favorite pick you made and why?
Right now they are one in the same. My 7th round selection of Alshon Jeffery is both my favorite and least favorite pick and I won’t be able to tell you which until we know for certain Jeffery is not starting the year on the PUP List as some reports indicate. Fingers crossed!
Name one (or more) pick(s) other than your own that you thought represented great value.
Nick Mariano from Rotoballer drafted Chargers 2nd year wide receiver Mike Williams. That’s a great pick right there. Pass heavy Offense. No Hunter Henry sucking up RedZone Targets. Mike should have no problem beating out Tyrell for that Number 2 role behind Keenan Allen.
Tell us about where we can find more of you and your work.
We have a great community of members at FFChamps.com and offer a concierge, very personal type of service for our members. One-on-one chats six times a week to help with Waiver Wire, Startling Line-up, and DFS advice. A LIVE call in Radio Show with the New England Patriots, which you can stream on patriots.com or download on all podcast platforms- search Fantasy Football Champs. I also do weekly live and on-demand videos on my awesome App; Fancred-the best app for any sports fan.
Pick 6: Pat Fitzmaurice (@Fitz_FF)
2017 accuracy finish: 6th in draft accuracy, 2nd in in-season accuracy
Other notable finishes: Draft accuracy: 2016: 17th, 2012: 3rd, 2010: 3rd; In-season accuracy: 2016: 20th, 2015: 8th, 2011: 11th, 2010: 11th, 2009: 2nd.
1. (6) Alvin Kamara (NO – RB)
2. (19) Michael Thomas (NO – WR)
3. (30) T.Y. Hilton (Ind – WR)
4. (43) JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pit – WR)
5. (54) Marshawn Lynch (Oak – RB)
6. (67) Emmanuel Sanders (Den – WR)
7. (78) Jamaal Williams (GB – RB)
8. (91) Drew Brees (NO – QB)
9. (102) Jordan Reed (Was – TE)
10. (115) Kenny Golladay (Det – WR)
11. (126) Tyler Eifert (Cin – TE)
12. (139) Tyrell Williams (LAC – WR)
13. (150) Nyheim Hines (Ind – RB)
14. (163) Philadelphia (Phi – DEF)
15. (174) Mike Wallace (Phi – WR)
On a personal note, I want you to know that I loved your draft. But tell me, how do YOU feel your team turned out? Did you go in with any particular strategy and if so, did you execute it successfully?
Thanks, man. I’m satisfied. I think anyone who does a lot of drafts would agree there’s an element of luck to it. Some drafts are made comfortable by the way value presents itself to you. Some drafts are uncomfortable in that you’re sniped on a bunch of picks or presented with a lot of difficult choices. This draft felt pretty comfortable.
You waited on tight end more than most, drafting Jordan Reed as your TE1 in Round 9 and backing him up shortly thereafter with Tyler Eifert in Round 11. Given their history of injuries, wouldn’t it have been safer to draft someone more stable with one of those picks?
I’ve written that I don’t like the value proposition with Reed this year, but this was as far as I’ve seen him fall in a while. Plus, there are a lot of sharp people in this league, so I needed to take some chances. It’s a big risk, obviously: The Sports Injury Predictor website has logged 21 injuries for Reed since 2010, including six concussions. I figured I might as well steer into the skid by also taking Eifert. If just one of them can stay healthy, I should be in good shape at TE. If both stay healthy, hell, I could potentially flex a TE some weeks. But of course, they could both be hurt by Week 3 and leave me streaming the position all season.
The extreme stacking strategy wasn’t planned, but I’m kind of excited about it. I was torn between Kamara and Saquon at pick 1.06 and took Kamara. Michael Thomas falling to 2.07 was a surprise, and I couldn’t pass him up. I was once in a league where one of my competitors stacked four Broncos, including Peyton Manning, in a year when the Denver offense went berserk, and this owner dominated, going 13-1 before losing in the title game. I saw the same sort of opportunity here. The Saints’ offense should be terrific, and I like having its three best players. If the New Orleans offense tanks in a given week, I’ll probably lose, but how often will that happen?
What was your favorite pick of your draft and why?
Marshawn Lynch at 5.06. I had just drafted three straight WRs, and the RB position was about to hit a big drop-off point. Lynch was the guardrail at that drop-off point. I’m pretty optimistic about him. Over the second half of 2017, he produced at nearly a 1,500-yard pace and scored a bunch of TDs, and he runs behind a good offensive line.
Name one (or more) pick(s) from another owner’s team that stood out to you as one of the best values.
I’m not crazy about picking on the turn this year, but I thought Jake Ciely had a great draft from the turn in this one. I loved his first nine picks or so and was insanely jealous that he was able to get Odell Beckham Jr. at the top of the second round.
You had an outstanding season accuracy-wise in 2017, both in terms of draft and in-season rankings. Where can we find more of you and your work?
People can find my weekly rankings and occasion articles at TheFootballGirl.com. My weekly podcast, Fitz on Fantasy, is available on iTunes and SoundCloud. And I’ll be doing a weekly waiver wire column for CBS Sportsline.
Pick 5: Rob Waziak (@WazNFL)
2017 accuracy finish: 5th in draft accuracy, 7th in in-season accuracy
Other notable finishes: Draft accuracy: 2016: 13th.
1. (5) Antonio Brown (Pit – WR)
2. (20) Tyreek Hill (KC – WR)
3. (29) Joe Mixon (Cin – RB)
4. (44) Brandin Cooks (LAR – WR)
5. (53) Evan Engram (NYG – TE)
6. (68) Marlon Mack (Ind – RB)
7. (77) Tarik Cohen (Chi – RB)
8. (92) Randall Cobb (GB – WR)
9. (101) Jordy Nelson (Oak – WR)
10. (116) Jimmy Garoppolo (SF – QB)
11. (125) Jared Goff (LAR – QB)
12. (140) George Kittle (SF – TE)
13. (149) Corey Clement (Phi – RB)
14. (164) Quincy Enunwa (NYJ – WR)
15. (173) New Orleans (NO – DEF)
Other than Dave Major, who clearly went with the most unorthodox strategy in the history of fantasy football, you waited on running back more than any other owner, drafting Joe Mixon as your RB1 in Round 3 and Marlon Mack as your RB2 in Round 6. Intentional strategy or just how things unfolded?
It was actually a little bit of both. After anticipating the top-tier running backs to be cleaned up before fifth overall, I knew that I had to go with Antonio Brown. I considered this even more necessary in a league where a minimum of three wide receivers must be started every week. Additionally, I have been targeting Joe Mixon in the second to third rounds of drafts this offseason and had a feeling that he would be available for me there. Now, I was targeting Tyreek Hill for my third round pick but was worried that one of the RB-RB teams would draft him before then so I took him in the second. Needless to say, I was relieved when Mixon was there for me in the third round, I feel really good about him this season. Now, waiting until the sixth round to take my RB2 is not a hand I’m familiar with playing, but the tier drops at the position forced me in a different direction in rounds four and five. This worked out well for me because I was able to land Brandin Cooks at WR20 and Evan Engram at TE4; two more of my favorite plays this season. By the time the sixth round came, I had known that it was time to grab a running back. In hindsight, I wish I would have planned a bit more ahead and taken Carlos Hyde there and then Mack in Round 7.
Speaking of Mack, you drafted him 68th overall, despite him having an expert consensus ranking of 94. What about Mack, if anything, makes you like him more than most other analysts?
Because of his injury and the recent fascination with Jordan Wilkins, Mack’s ranking has been all over the place, and it doesn’t surprise me that his standard deviation in the ECR is over 25. Now, I was already on Mack’s price this offseason. In July, I included Mack as my 2018 sleeper pick and a great late-round RB2 target, and this was when his ranking was 77! Sure, that article was posted before Mack suffered a hamstring injury, but I feel that drafting Mack where I did at RB31 felt right and I look forward to the volume he should receive once he gets on that field and spun up. If anything, I’m happy the Colts haven’t rushed him back onto the field.
You were one of the last owners to draft your starting quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo in Round 10) but the first (non-Dave Major) owner to draft your backup quarterback (Jared Goff in Round 11). I’m a huge fan of this strategy, personally, but was it planned? Do you feel confident that at least one of those two will be a capable starter all season?
Honestly, taking two quarterbacks back-to-back in a one-QB made me cringe a bit, and it’s not something I typically do, but I felt like it was worth trying over picking at the running back scraps. I am an enormous fan of both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff and expect them to both post top-12 numbers this season. Regardless, I wouldn’t suggest this as a viable strategy for anyone. Waiting on quarterback = yes. Taking a second quarterback in a one-quarterback league = no. Sure, while one of the two could struggle or get hurt, the waiver wire usually has starter-worthy quarterbacks available every week. Despite Matthew not drafting a quarterback (a strategy I do like, but did not know it was usable here), at least a dozen starting quarterbacks were not drafted and are now available on the waiver wire.
What was your favorite pick of your draft?
Honorable mention: Corey Clement at 13.05 because Pat Fitzmaurice wanted him at 13.06.
Where can we find more of you and your work?
Honestly, as a result of a new career opportunity I started two months ago, my free time has been non-existent and therefore I haven’t churned out much of anything. Regardless, the places where my work may be seen, and where some excellent offseason content can already be found, is at Pyromaniac.com.
Pick 4: Nick Mariano (@NMariano53)
2017 accuracy finish: 9th in in-season accuracy.
1. (4) Ezekiel Elliott (Dal – RB)
2. (21) Keenan Allen (LAC – WR)
3. (28) Jordan Howard (Chi – RB)
4. (45) Russell Wilson (Sea – QB)
5. (52) Marvin Jones Jr. (Det – WR)
6. (69) Corey Davis (Ten – WR)
7. (76) Greg Olsen (Car – TE)
8. (93) Bilal Powell (NYJ – RB)
9. (100) Aaron Jones (GB – RB)
10. (117) Mike Williams (LAC – WR)
11. (124) Tyler Lockett (Sea – WR)
12. (141) Geronimo Allison (GB – WR)
13. (148) Ryan Grant (Ind – WR)
14. (165) Baltimore (Bal – DEF)
15. (172) Marcus Mariota (Ten – QB)
You were one of two owners to take your starting quarterback before Round 6, drafting Russell Wilson in the fourth round. Aren’t we all supposed to be waiting on QB this year?
It wasn’t the plan, but I was open to going QB or TE if the value was there (this also led to my seventh-round pick of Greg Olsen). With two strong RBs and Keenan Allen in the fold, Wilson’s value on my draft board was highest by a considerable margin and I liked roughly 8 RB/WR equally where I’d be happy in Round 5 regardless. Only Aaron Rodgers and Wilson could sway me to take the plunge early, but I knew Russ wouldn’t last back for my Rd 6/7 turn.
Conversely, you waited longer than almost any other owner to draft running back depth, waiting until Rounds 8 and 9 to draft your third and fourth running back (Bilal Powell and Aaron Jones, respectively). Was that an intentional strategy or was it all about value?
All about value, though I fear I’ll be hating myself for selecting Powell over Peyton Barber. In any PPR setting, half or full, Rounds 8/9/10 are about where I want my RB upside before going hard for WRs, especially because Corey Davis‘ range of outcomes is rather wide. I love the upside, but I need to be honest about having depth potential behind him. I think Powell is still the best guy in Gang Green’s backfield (I loved that HB toss TD on Friday against NYG) and that Jones offers more versatility than Jamaal Williams does for the Pack.
Last year was your first year officially submitting fantasy football rankings to the ECR, and your accuracy ranking dramatically shot up as the season progressed. What is the name of the wizard who granted you magical ranking skills midway through the season?
Honestly, September was just insanely busy and my football model wasn’t totally ironed out going in. I had just transitioned from writing for MLB.com’s fantasy department to a new full-time job right before Week 1, and I still had baseball content going. I did my best to improve my models in between obligations, but then suddenly baseball ended and the skies cleared. Things took off from there, so I guess the wizard’s name is “time”. Dragging around that slow start yet still scoring a top-10 finish feels great, sort of like Greg Jennings scoring the TD on a broken leg in Madden.
What was the favorite pick of your draft and why?
I’ll go with Geronimo Allison. I already like him in his current James Jones role, but I also worry about Randall Cobb staying on the field this season. His offseason ankle surgery has both made him a solid value if he pans out, but also quite the risk. He’s already been lifted from practice with a flare-up and people smarter than I (read: Mike Tagliere) have brought up how players who undergo ankle/foot surgeries in the same year as the following season tend to stink. Cobb has plenty of other things going for him that should prop him up, but Allison could be a top-25 WR should Cobb (or Davante Adams) go down. I will take that range of outcomes all day.
Where can we find more of you and your work?
You can find the bulk of my work over at RotoBaller (specific author link here), as well as here at FantasyPros, where I’ll be salvaging the weekly Start/Sit articles this season after some goofball ran it into the ground last season (Hint: it was Dan, our loyal commissioner) [Editor’s Note: Too mean. But, admittedly, very accurate.]. And even though I can’t stand Twitter for more than a few minutes at a time, I’m always happy to answer any questions y’all may have.
Pick 3: Rudy Gamble (@rudygamble)
2017 accuracy finish: 5th in in-season accuracy.
1. (3) David Johnson (Ari – RB)
2. (22) A.J. Green (Cin – WR)
3. (27) Adam Thielen (Min – WR)
4. (46) Lamar Miller (Hou – RB)
5. (51) Dion Lewis (Ten – RB)
6. (70) Kyle Rudolph (Min – TE)
7. (75) Robert Woods (LAR – WR)
8. (94) Peyton Barber (TB – RB)
9. (99) Marqise Lee (Jax – WR)
10. (118) Allen Hurns (Dal – WR)
11. (123) Alex Smith (Was – QB)
12. (142) Cameron Meredith (NO – WR)
13. (147) Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Jax – TE)
14. (166) Carolina (Car – DEF)
15. (171) Matt Ryan (Atl – QB)
Thanks to a benevolent commissioner backing out your auto draft of Matthew Stafford in Round 9, you were the last owner to draft a starting quarterback (not counting Matthew who opted to implement the ol‘ zero-QB strategy), going with Alex Smith in Round 11. Was it your plan to wait as long as possible to draft a quarterback and do you feel confident Smith will be a viable long-term option?
I appreciated the bailout! I wanted to wait as long as possible on QB and particularly like Alex Smith‘s cost vs ADP. His running creates a nice floor and the combo of Jay Gruden + Guice’s injury should ensure a pass-heavy offense. I have him projected right now as a top 10 QB in 8 of the first 11 weeks (and one week is his bye).
Did you go into the draft with any preconceived strategy or did you want to just let the chips fall where they may? To the extent you did have a strategy, did you execute it successfully?
I don’t really play season-long fantasy football (projections + DFS + dipping toe in best ball this year) so not much strategy. I had targets for players per position and planned on 2 runnings backs in the first 3 picks but pivoted when both A.J. Green and Adam Thielen were available on my 2nd/3rd picks. It is an odd feeling to draft without experience/intuition to rely upon vs fantasy baseball where I have played in expert/money leagues for years.
What was your favorite and least favorite pick of your draft, and why?
My favorite pick right now is Peyton Barber in the 8th round (pick #94). Sims went on injured reserve which should only increase his role in the passing game. I have him at RB19 right now and I got him at RB41.
My least favorite by far is Dion Lewis in the 5th round (pick #51). Rookie mistake where my queue was empty after Demaryius Thomas got taken on the turn. In retrospect, I would rather have drafted Marshawn Lynch or reached for Emmanuel Sanders (both were taken before my 6th pick).
Last year, you were not only absurdly accurate, you were one of the boldest experts, in that your rankings greatly differed from that of the ECR. What’s your process behind your rankings?
I build my rankings straight from my player projection model that I built prior to the 2016 season (more details here). I never researched how others build their projections – I just followed my gut on approach and backtested with past season data throughout the process. Having gone through the process, it is now pretty easy to see where I diverge methodologically from others. I try to keep an open mind – sometimes great ideas can originate from other’s mistakes. Except for TD rate for projecting QB TDs. That’s a garbage stat.
The FantasyPros contest has been invaluable for weekly improvements as I dig into my outlier picks and hunt for improvement opportunities, bugs in the code, etc. As expected/hoped, my accuracy has improved over time (2017 better than 2016, 2H 2017 better than 1H 2017) because of all the iterative improvements to the model.
The fact that the resulting rankings are furthest away from consensus has been a pleasant surprise. We are typically known for bold opinions/stances at Razzball so it is ‘on brand’ as the marketers say. I suppose just cut/pasting my rankings in versus moving players up/down in the ranking tool helps me avoid the gravitational pull of consensus projections.
You’re not only one of the most accurate experts in the business, but your Twitter avatar has the best hair around. Where can we find more of you and your work?
Thanks. I believe in regression for everything but avatar ‘fros. All my work is at Razzball where I run the MLB/NFL/NBA projections as well as various free resources like the MLB/NFL/NBA player pages, Fantasy Baseball Player Rater, NFL Depth Charts, Fantasy Baseball Trade Analyzer and Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer. My articles are few and far between but I am active on Twitter (@rudygamble) and responsive to questions/feedback from current and potential subscribers. We also have tentative plans for me and one of my colleagues (Matt Bowe) to do a weekly podcast during the NFL season.
Pick 2: Sean Koerner (@The_Oddsmaker)
2017 accuracy finish: 4th in draft accuracy, 1st in in-season accuracy
Other notable finishes: Draft accuracy: 5th in 2016, 3rd in 2014; In-season accuracy: 2016: 1st, 2015: 1st, 2014: 2nd, 2013: 10th.
1. (2) Le’Veon Bell (Pit – RB)
2. (23) Devonta Freeman (Atl – RB)
3. (26) Mike Evans (TB – WR)
4. (47) Golden Tate (Det – WR)
5. (50) Mark Ingram (NO – RB)
6. (71) Cam Newton (Car – QB)
7. (74) Michael Crabtree (Bal – WR)
8. (95) Will Fuller V (Hou – WR)
9. (98) Devontae Booker (Den – RB)
10. (119) Paul Richardson Jr. (Was – WR)
11. (122) Chris Ivory (Buf – RB)
12. (143) Courtland Sutton (Den – WR)
13. (146) Latavius Murray (Min – RB)
14. (167) Benjamin Watson (NO – TE)
15. (170) Denver (Den – DEF)
You were the third owner to select a quarterback with Cam Newton at the end of the sixth round. Are you generally one of the first owners in your league to draft a quarterback or was the value on Newton just too good to pass up?
Ideally I wait on a QB, but the draft itself is a lot like choosing a play, coming up to the line of scrimmage, reading the defense, then when needed you change the play. Cam Newton, my 2nd ranked QB, was available to me outside the top 70- I’m not going to draft someone like Tarik Cohen simply because I typically wait for a QB. I had 3 RB / 2 WR and we were at a point in the draft where I have 12-15 WR bunched up in a massive Tier. I’ve found a lot of expert drafts have the QB position fall quite a bit due to everyone knowing that it’s usually ideal to hold off on the position. I like to zig when others zag in order to find value opportunities- this was one of those times. Having said all that, Cam has QB1 overall potential this year as I think he has the best supporting cast of his career.
Conversely, you were the last owner to draft a tight end, waiting until Round 14 to take Benjamin Watson! Again, part of an overall strategy of yours or just how the draft unfolded?
Nope. I state pretty clearly in my TE Tiers that if I don’t end up with one of the Top 3 TEs I usually end up punting TE altogether. From the 2nd draft spot, in particular, I don’t really stand a chance at getting one unless Gronk makes it back to me. I thought where Ertz went at the end of the 3rd was a steal. The TE position outside of those guys can usually be a TD or bust type position since it’s hard to bank on any useful yardage on a consistent basis to make up for weeks when a TE doesn’t score. Might as well stream the position to take advantage of the right TE in the right matchup to possibly create a top-10 TE from streaming. All signs point to Watson not slowing down despite turning 38 this year. He gets great matchups vs. TB & Cle to start the year then I will likely drop him for someone else after Week 2.
In hindsight, would you have done anything differently in your draft?
Not really. I think I accomplished what I wanted in the first 8 rounds which is critical to building a solid base for my team. I made a lot of aggressive picks going for upside Round 11 and on. Really think it can’t hurt since we typically drop these players during the season anyways. I just consider the team I draft as a starting point so I don’t care if I drop my Round 11 pick, Chris Ivory around the start of the season- I’m simply trying to get a potential starting RB late if the LeSean McCoy legal situation takes a turn for the worse. My only regret may be drafting a DEF, since I was told it was mandatory- I never draft a DEF or K unless it is mandatory. [Editor’s Note: The Commissioner erroneously told Sean that drafting a DEF was mandatory.]
You’ve basically dominated the accuracy competitions forever, finishing as the most accurate expert for in-season rankings in three straight seasons and in the top five in accuracy in draft rankings in back-to-back seasons. Where can we find you and your work?
Yes, winning that contest means a lot to me because I know first hand just how much dedication it takes to make it through 16 weeks and somehow be on top in what is a highly competitive field. When I first started playing Fantasy Football nearly 2 decades ago when I was 10 years old I never imagined in a million years I would be where I am today. I will be giving it my all again this year to try for 4 in a row!
You can find all my work at The Action Network.
Pick 1: Dan Harris (@danharris80)
2017 accuracy finish: 28th in draft accuracy, 12th in in-season accuracy.
1. (1) Todd Gurley II (LAR – RB)
2. (24) Travis Kelce (KC – TE)
3. (25) Stefon Diggs (Min – WR)
4. (48) Demaryius Thomas (Den – WR)
5. (49) Derrick Henry (Ten – RB)
6. (72) Jamison Crowder (Was – WR)
7. (73) Carlos Hyde (Cle – RB)
8. (96) Kenny Stills (Mia – WR)
9. (97) Pierre Garcon (SF – WR)
10. (120) Giovani Bernard (Cin – RB)
11. (121) Matthew Stafford (Det – QB)
12. (144) Austin Ekeler (LAC – RB)
13. (145) Keelan Cole (Jax – WR)
14. (168) Rishard Matthews (Ten – WR)
15. (169) Los Angeles (LAR – DEF)
I certainly don’t usually, and did not in this draft, go in thinking that I’m walking out with one of the top three tight ends. But I’ve done enough mock drafts to know that I generally like my teams if I wind up with Rob Gronkowski or Kelce at that spot. Truly, I was planning to take both Devonta Freeman and A.J. Green, but Rudy and Sean took them just before my pick and I was forced to improvise. But I have no problem taking one of Gronkowski, Kelce, or Zach Ertz in the first three rounds.
How does your strategy change drafting first overall?
When you’re drafting at either turn, ADP goes out the window. There are two full rounds in between your picks, so you can’t ever pass on someone you like thinking that it’s too early to take him. That’s especially true in an expert league such as this one, where you’re not going to sneak a sleeper through. If you want a player, you need to draft him, regardless of if you think it’s a reach to do so.
What was your least favorite pick of your draft?
It seems silly, but I actually hated the Matthew Stafford pick. Don’t get me wrong – I felt he was good value and would have taken him before many of the quarterbacks who went. But Matthew didn’t even draft a quarterback and he can go out and pick up Philip Rivers if he wants to, and I don’t see that much of a difference between him and Stafford. I would have been better served waiting even longer.
What was your favorite pick from a draft other than your own?
I thought Jake Ciely continuously nabbed value picking 12th, but I actually loved Pat Fitzmaurice’s pick of Drew Brees at pick 91 in the eighth round. With some just minimal positive regression, I think Brees can have an outstanding season, and I had my eye on him a few picks later.
Where can we find more of you and your work?
Right here at FantasyPros, actually. Although I keep pretty busy running our news desks, I author the weekly trade chart articles for both fantasy football and fantasy baseball, and I like to pop on our podcast when I feel that Bobby Sylvester is getting out of line. And you can always hit me up anytime on Twitter @danharris80.
Thanks again to all the experts that participated. We’ll continue to keep you, the reader, up to date on the league throughout the season, including commentary from the experts.