After two months of Best Ball slow drafts, it was time to dip my toes into the waters of drafts with a sixty second clock. On Thursday night, I picked seventh in a 12-team, NFFC satellite league, which will assist in preparation for my NFFC RotoWire Online Championship leagues later this month. Both the satellite and the Rotowire OC leagues have the same format – full point PPR, Kentucky Derby Style (KDS) pre-draft order settings and 3RR (third-round reversal). Passing touchdowns are worth six points and the starting lineup is 1-QB, 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE, 1-Flex (RB/WR/TE), 1-K, 1-DST, with 10 bench spots. The only difference with these satellites is that there are no overall prizes, which can affect draft strategy slightly, meaning less of a need to target highly volatile 'home-run' picks.
Every summer, I build out my own projections, positional tiers, and set my own 'ADP'. Doing so guards me from being influenced by the multitude of rankings, articles, breakout lists and the strongly-opinionated folks in the Twittersphere. (It is important, however, to take note of NFFC and MFL (MyFantasyLeague) ADP – mostly, to assess where I can wait an extra round or two for my targets.) Keeping a pulse on draft risers and fallers is imperative and can potentially price certain targets out of reach as well. Such was the case with Joseph Randle, whose stock is rising daily. A ninth round pick in early-July drafts and a focal point of my 'breakouts' article in our magazine, Randle has been drafted as high as the third round in NFFC 12-teamers. At some point, even our favorite targets pass that break-even point.
I set my KDS as 7-8-9-12-11-10-6-5-4-3-2-1 and received my first KDS choice of seven. The first six picks were my last choices for two reasons: I value my eighth ranked guy similarly to my first ranked guy. And because of third-round reversal – a later first round pick nets an early third round pick, and there is a noticeable talent/trustworthiness drop-off in the middle of the third round.
Here is the pick-by-pick analysis:
1.07 – Eddie Lacy (RB1, GB)
The plan was to start with one of Julio Jones, Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas, with specific interest in Jones. Lacy was a gift as I rank him with Adrian Peterson in my top two in PPR formats. In what will be just his third NFL season, Lacy is a solid bet to lead the league in touchdowns and total fantasy points. James Starks' efficiency helped keep Lacy's legs fresh and under 250 carries last year. Lacy also saw an uptick in targets (55 in 2014, 44 in 2013) and improved his YPC from 4.1 to 4.6 last season. A top-rated offense and positive game flow allows for more time on the field for Lacy to burn clock and occasionally break off big plays.
2.06 – Jeremy Hill (RB2 CIN)
Though I did not plan to start the draft with two running backs, there was no way I was going to let Hill pass me by. He's a late first-round pick for me, and the WR options at this spot (Randall Cobb, Alshon Jeffery, Mike Evans) are on par with the options I knew I would be considering at 3.06. Grabbing two of my top five RB put me at ease here, knowing I would have two RB spots locked in and would not have to play match-up musical chairs with the likes of TJ Yeldon, Rashad Jennings, Tre Mason and Tevin Coleman. Hill showed incredible maturity and poise for a rookie, running for over 1,100 yards at just over 5.0 yards-per-carry. Although Gio Bernard will get his share of carries and passing downs, Hill should still receive close to 250 carries and all the goal-line work. If there's anyone outside of Lacy and Peterson to wager on to lead all running backs in touchdowns, it's Hill.
3.06 – Jordan Matthews (WR1, PHI)
This was a calculated gamble that paid off. Matthews was my target here, and as the WR run ensued in the early third, I was afraid I'd miss him. Emmanuel Sanders went one pick beforehand, and he was my backup plan. Matthews was the WR I projected to amass the most fantasy points among rookies when the Eagles let DeSean Jackson go, but Odell Beckham eventually squashed that debate. Matthews has been universally touted this preseason, and rightfully so. He will serve as the premier target in the high octane Chip Kelly hurry up offense that should lead the league in snaps again this year. DeMarco Murray should be more effective than LeSean McCoy was last year, and should help keep defenses honest (McCoy danced around and ran east/west too much last season). Matthews can post top-five wideout numbers as soon as this season, no matter whether Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez is under center.
4.07 – Amari Cooper (WR2, OAK)
The remarkable 2014 rookie WR class has artificially inflated the ADP of the inferior bunch this season, though Cooper should prove to be the exception. Cooper isn't stepping into the ideal organization for growth and nourishment, but his poise and star potential could rub off on second-year QB Derek Carr immediately. The Raiders had the league's worst per-play pass efficiency in the league, but 48 percent of Carr's completions were chip shot passes to James Jones, Darren McFadden and Mychel Rivera at a combined 7.4 YPA. Enter, Cooper, Roy Helu and Michael Crabtree, all rolled into new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's up-tempo offense. Cooper exhibits A+ footwork in traffic, has a shifty second gear and great hands. His skills and style compare to a blend of Antonio Brown and Randall Cobb – lofty and perhaps ludicrous praise, but this is what he reminded me of watching him catch 31 touchdowns in 30 games as a starter at Alabama. I was in need of a WR2 and target-heavy Jarvis Landry was taken one pick before Cooper. Moreover, the drop-off to the next group of receivers was stark. I've seen Cooper taken in the third round of MFLs and had no qualms about grabbing him at 4.07.
5.06 – Joseph Randle (RB3/Flex, DAL)
Forgetting that I'm not in a draft with an overall prize, here's my second consecutive 'home-run' selection. Unlike MFL10s where running backs are drafted early and often, the NFFC format places an emphasis on taking receivers early. At 5.06, it was shocking to have a choice between Randle, Carlos Hyde and Melvin Gordon – nevertheless, a much more comfortable decision than to be choosing between this trio in the late third or early fourth. With this pick, I'm banking on above average upside behind a world class offensive line. And at the same time, locking in my Flex spot so that I don't have to worry (hopefully) about mixing in a fourth WR based on matchups here.
6.07 – Greg Olsen (TE1, CAR)
Martellus Bennett is my primary target at tight end this year, but only because Olsen is fully-priced at an ADP of 58.11. Available nearly a full round later, Olsen was hard to pass up because of the lack of trustworthy WR options and the fact that I was set with three running backs. Additionally, with Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers the only quarterbacks selected at this point, it didn't make sense to reach for one of Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees assuming that my target (Matt Ryan) would likely be available next round. Olsen set career-highs in receptions (84) and yards (1,008) and should come within 85 percent of those numbers as Cam Newton's safety blanket this year.
7.06 – Torrey Smith (WR3, SF)
With Wilson, Ryan, Tony Romo and Eli Manning still on the board, I took a chance that one of them would be available in the eighth round. Smith has never been ideal for PPR formats like NFFC because of low career average of receptions (53 per season) and week-to-week boom or bust results. But Smith did score double-digit touchdowns last season and has a good rapport with retooled QB Colin Kaepernick in training camp (Kaep worked on delivery and footwork with Kurt Warner this offseason). The Niners defense has been decimated in the offseason (and lost Aldon Smith on Friday) and may provide lots of opportunities for 'catching up' in the second halves of games this season.
8.07 – Matt Ryan (QB1, ATL)
This is where I slightly regretted taking Lacy over Julio Jones as he and Ryan are my most coveted QB-WR combo to target this year. Ryan has averaged 28.6 touchdowns over the past five seasons and has thrown for over 4,500 yards in each of his past three. If Roddy White can stay healthy to keep Jones from garnering double coverage, 2015 may finally be the season where Ryan posts top three overall QB numbers.
9.06 – Michael Floyd (WR4, ARI)
This was the pick where the clock ticked to the final second. With one pick to go before my turn, I was locked in on Pierre Garcon – the last of a tier of wideouts I felt comfortable with as my WR4. Garcon was predictably swiped at 9.05 and the only two WR in my queue were injured guys – Floyd and Breshad Perriman. At this point, WR was my only option because I wasn't going to take a second QB or TE, and already had three solid RB. Floyd had surgery on three dislocated fingers on Thursday, but may still be ready by Week 1. Floyd (like Torrey Smith) is better suited for Best Ball leagues that take your top point totals each week. But his disappointing 2014, combined with this injury, will cause his ADP to take a tumble over the next few weeks. Though I'm certain Floyd would have lasted another round or two, I was still able to grab him 18 picks ahead of his current ADP.
10.07 – Brian Quick (WR5, STL)
Still feeling comfortable with the Lacy/Hill/Randle trio, it was time to grab another one of my WR targets. Quick was the focal point of the Rams' passing game over the first six weeks of the season before breaking his collarbone the weekend before Halloween. His recovery has been positively documented, but he will definitely need the rest of camp and some preseason games to get back in the groove, especially with new quarterback, Nick Foles. Teammate Stedman Bailey doesn't quite have the hands or speed that Quick does, but could end up being the guy to have in that offense because of value (ADP of 287, but taken at 216 in this draft). Nevertheless, in round 10 and as my fifth receiver, I felt comfortable with my selection of Quick.
11.06 – Reggie Bush (RB4, SF) – Waited a round too long for Charles Sims, so had a grueling decision between Bush and rookie RB David Johnson. In the RotoWire OC, I would have taken Johnson for the upside, especially with Andre Ellington always seemingly on the cusp of another injury.
12.07 – Knile Davis (RB5, KC) – Stocking up in case Randle doesn't pan out. Davis has the potential to post RB2/3 numbers even with Jamaal Charles playing 16 games. He can be a RB1 if Charles misses significant time.
13.06 – Owen Daniels (TE2, DEN) – Daniels must have been stuck down the draft list as round 13 feels like a steal considering he steps in for Julius Thomas in Peyton Manning's offense. Daniels will flirt with top five overall numbers at his position until inevitable injury. Earlier this summer, I preferred Virgil Green, but quickly came to my senses.
14.07 – Dwayne Bowe (WR6, CLE) – I'm a fan of disappointments in previous seasons, and Bowe fits the bill. There is nowhere to go but up after last year's goose egg in the TD department. On the wrong side of 30 with declining skills and speed, but I like taking guys who are 'undraftable' to my competition. And what if Johnny Manziel ends up actually being an NFL quarterback?
15.06 – Miami Dolphins (DST) – Already a top 10 unit last year, the Dolphins added Ndamukong Suh in the offseason. Be sure to glance at their first-half schedule this season, and then look at it again. The Dolphins are slated to face the following quarterbacks through their first seven weeks: Robert Griffin, Blake Bortles, EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor, Geno Smith, Marcus Mariota, Brian Hoyer. Looks like two months of snack time for Suh and company.
16.07 – Nick Toon (WR7, NO) – At this point, I am in WR overkill mode. But I had to draft the guy I wrote about in May.
17.06 – Cody Parkey (K1, PHI) – I typically wait until round 19 or 20, but kickers give you fantasy points too. The ones on the best offensives can squeeze out a more consistent weekly total, which can help squeak out wins in head-to-head formats. If I were to grab a backup or take a kicker later, I'm looking at Chandler Catanzaro or Caleb Sturgis.
18.07 – James Starks (RB6, GB) – Only two RB are truly worth handcuffing this year – Lacy and Jamaal Charles. With an entire month before opening kickoff, it was a no-brainer grabbing my first round pick's handcuff. If anything were to happen to Lacy in preseason, there would not be much of a drop-off to Starks statistically, and I'd have likely saved 90 percent of my FAAB budget that would be blown on Starks in Week 1.
19.06 – Jameis Winston (QB2, TB) – I considered not taking a backup QB at all but the allure of this rookie QB with legs was worth it in round 19. This selection was 80 picks after his ADP.
20.07 – Taylor Gabriel (WR8, CLE) – One of my favorite options among the undrafted in 12-team leagues. Gabriel caught a handful of deep balls last year and finished with a 17.3 YPR (621 yards) on just 36 catches. He has been the Browns' most effective WR in camp thus far, and is worth monitoring over the next few weeks.
QB: Matt Ryan (8), Jameis Winston (19)
RB: Eddie Lacy (1), Jeremy Hill (2), Joseph Randle (5)
Reggie Bush (11), Knile Davis (12), James Starks (18)
WR: Jordan Matthews (3), Amari Cooper (4), Torrey Smith (7), Michael Floyd (9)
Brian Quick (10), Dwayne Bowe (14), Nick Toon (16), Taylor Gabriel (20)
TE: Greg Olsen (6), Owen Daniels (13)
DST: Miami Dolphins (15)
K: Cody Parkey (17)
Shoot a note via Twitter (@RotoGut) and let me know your thoughts.