- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
- 0 Shares
Editor's note: We challenged fantasy football analyst Christopher Harris to use his Top 160 rankings to draft 10 fantasy teams, keeping each squad's needs front-of-mind for the exercise. Here are the results and his observations. This is Harris' second go-round at a mock draft, this time taking into consideration the results of last month's NFL draft.
Round thoughts: I drafted seventh in an experts' mock draft late last week. As far as I'm concerned, at the moment that's the Death Hole. You don't want to be seventh. This is a 10-team draft (as is standard in ESPN.com's game), so it's not so bad; in last week's mock, it was a 12-teamer. Gah. I bumped Steven Jackson down four spots after the St. Louis Rams came clean about his back surgery. He's supposed to be fine. But how can we not consider him riskier than before? As I said in a football chat Monday afternoon, if Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers both go in a 10-team draft's first round, I would find it very difficult to argue against it. Honestly, exactly four players don't scare the pants off me as first-round picks, and they're the first four players listed here. (And you watch: At least one of them will wind up being a massive bust.)
Scare picks: Still worried about Michael Turner's return to health? Maybe almost as much as Jackson's? Me, too. I've been preaching this since the winter, but Frank Gore didn't have a great year in 2009, and he hasn't played a full season since '06. You have to take him in the first round, but I don't think he's nearly as ironclad as many seem to think he is. Will Randy Moss flame out in a contract year with no or limited Wes Welker?
Round thoughts: Thirteen running backs and only five wideouts are off the board through two rounds. Is that sound strategy? It's tempting to take a young, game-breaking running back who can do what DeAngelo Williams and Chris Johnson have done the past two seasons, but can guys like Cedric Benson or Ryan Grant really be called game-breakers? Answer: No. If you argue really hard with me that such low-ceiling players should go after players with legit (if somewhat remote) chances of being fantasy MVP, I will probably curl up in a ball and cry. Yet both Benson and Grant are on teams with good lines and a commitment to running. Shonn Greene is without question the apple of seemingly every fantasy expert's eye right now. In two experts' drafts I did this past weekend, he went in the first round of each. I like him fine, and clearly it's a good situation with the New York Jets. But I worry about his durability and about how many third downs and goal-line chances he might lose. I'm not going to own him in many leagues.
Scare picks: Will Brandon Marshall take a backseat to the Miami Dolphins' running game? Why have I fallen so deeply in love with Jamaal Charles, who has exactly a half-season of production under his belt, Thomas Jones in his backfield and a small frame? I can't help it: It's the lure of the astonishing runs he made late in '09. DeAngelo Williams has Jonathan Stewart sharing his job. He's a more dynamic player, but Stewart is a plow horse and could steal half the Panthers' rushing yards and touchdowns.
Round thoughts: Four teams take quarterbacks in this round, but it's Team 2 that seems to have loaded up with the highest upside. Between Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams and now Calvin Johnson, that's three guys who could dominate their fantasy positions this year. Of course, they could all get hurt. Team 10's receiving duo of Randy Moss and Miles Austin looks sick. This doesn't seem to be a bad year to use two of your first three picks on receivers, sandwiched around one solid rusher (in this case Rashard Mendenhall), especially if you're in your draft's back half. The way this draft played out, Team 7 had to reach a little bit for Ryan Mathews after grabbing a receiver and a quarterback in the first two rounds. Is Mathews really ready to be a No. 1 fantasy rusher?
Scare picks: Drafting Calvin Johnson this high freaks me out. He's a natural to be picked by someone picking at either end of your draft: someone who thinks Megatron won't be there when he or she picks again. He might lead the world in every receiving category. But the Detroit Lions still should be an awful team with an awful O-line. Eep. I'm higher on Beanie Wells than nearly anyone else is, and I acknowledge that taking him this high is frightening. I'd feel OK about it; I think he could be in for a Michael Turner-style breakout as soon as 2010 (with an annoying dash of Tim Hightower mixed in). You almost certainly won't have to draft him this high to get him. Stewart probably will wind up as someone's No. 2 fantasy back. That could work out great. Or not.
Round thoughts: This round begins with four running backs followed by eight receivers. We're at the point now where almost any rusher you select is a project, and you're probably reaching because of need (i.e., you picked in the back half of the first round). If you can get away with it, draft a receiver in Round 4. Knowshon Moreno, LeSean McCoy, Pierre Thomas and Joseph Addai all could wind up as top-five backs. But in the best of all worlds, wouldn't you rather bank points from guys like the two Jacksons, Sidney Rice, Greg Jennings, Marques Colston and Steve Smith?
Scare picks: Moreno, in particular, invites fear here for me because Correll Buckhalter looked like the better player through most of '09. But the Denver Broncos are sticking by their plan to overhaul their running game to include less zone-blocking and more straight-ahead power. That sounds good for Moreno, who should have it in him to be a bruiser. Vincent Jackson looks like a lock to begin the season under suspension for another DUI conviction, so if you're drafting him, you must focus on getting another star wideout to tide you over. DeSean Jackson has fallen quite a bit since the last time I did a one-man mock. It's not all Kevin Kolb. Jackson made so many massive plays last season, I worry they won't all repeat, and suddenly he's a 63-catch receiver who doesn't get red zone targets. If you're fully aboard the Matt Moore Express, you probably think Steve Smith should be higher than this. I'm not.
Round thoughts: Again, unsurprisingly it's a lot more palatable to take receivers than running backs in this round. We've also yet to see our first tight end drafted, but that will be remedied soon, and in a big way. By the way, I actually have Pierre Garcon one receiver spot ahead of Hakeem Nicks right now, but Team 9 passed up Garcon in favor of Nicks for one simple reason: It already drafted Reggie Wayne.
Scare picks: The two running backs in this round, Felix Jones and Ronnie Brown, represent substantial risk. Each has a veteran backup who's enjoyed tremendous success. Each has an injury-plagued history, which could cause his respective team to treat him with kid gloves, especially around the goal line. Jones is a home run hitter who'll probably win some fantasy games for his owners this year. But I fear he may also disappear on occasion. Brown is coming off a foot fracture and entering a contract year. Should the two Pittsburgh Steelers wideouts really go this high, given that their quarterback will be watching for at least a month? Will Rashard Mendenhall have the running game going to such an extent by the time Big Ben comes back that there'll be no need to throw as much as last year? And should both Giants receivers be in Round 5? Do we even know for sure that Nicks has a starting gig?
Round thoughts: The first three tight ends go off the board, bam-bam-bam. Now, I'm a notorious "waiter" on tight ends, and it's unlikely everyone in your league will show such restraint with the allure of Messrs. Clark, Gates and Davis so strong. Here, Teams 10, 9 and 8 felt that they'd filled out the majority of their starting lineups and that the elite tight ends would be long gone by the time their next picks came, so they fired. The wideouts around this spot in your draft are of the high-upside, scary-downside variety; they need to break out to justify being drafted this high, but by the same token, if you're smart and recognize what guys like Pierre Garcon, Michael Crabtree and Percy Harvin are, you'll team them with surer, less exciting receivers, in case they flop.
Scare picks: In the last mock draft I did, I wrote: "Ricky Williams is the second 'backup' rusher selected (after Jonathan Stewart); conventional wisdom says Williams is a 'young 33' because he basically didn't play in '06 or '07, but he still has nearly 9,000 carries on his odometer, and is a candidate to break down even in limited use." Yup, that's about right. Obviously Matt Forte's value is thrown into question by the Chicago Bears' acquisition of Chester Taylor. There's certainly a nonzero percent chance that Taylor stays in a role similar to what he had with the Minnesota Vikings last year, and that Forte blows my sixth-round grade for him out of the water. I know most drafts will have at least one owner who'll think that way, and pay to find out. I just don't like Chicago's O-line any more in '10 than I did entering '09. Five letters: F-A-V-R-E. Is he coming back? Can you wait for the incessant coverage, the breathless helicopter shots voiced over by people with accents straight out of "Fargo"? I think he'll return, but obviously, if you take him as the No. 8 quarterback (which in my opinion is exactly where the risk of his age and retirement balance against his incredible '09 season), you'd better make contingency plans. In deeper leagues (as I discovered this past weekend) that often involves making sure you also draft Tarvaris Jackson. In a 10-teamer, that probably won't be necessary.
Round thoughts: Team 5 reaches a little bit for Thomas Jones, simply because it already took Jamaal Charles and likes the idea of covering all its bases. Of course, the worst possible case would be a split job right down the middle. Better for Team 5 to have one guy take the reins. Would-be starting running backs such as Jahvid Best and Darren McFadden on what appear to be crummy teams are tempting at this point, mostly because you probably won't have to start them right away. To be honest, Best went a lot higher than this in the experts' mocks I've done, and he does match the profile of an immensely talented kid who could explode onto the fantasy scene. But in his case, I'm skeptical. I know he's about all the Lions have. But he's just so injury-prone.
Scare picks: The warts are coming out in full force, but that's why these guys are available in the seventh round, right? Dwayne Bowe is a knucklehead, but Charlie Weis has a nice history of making talented wideouts into very serviceable fantasy players. Reggie Bush probably could've done with a trade to Seattle to be reunited with his former college coach; instead, he has to watch his collegiate backfieldmate get a crack at starter's carries while Bush plays behind Pierre Thomas. At age 35, is Donald Driver finally going to fade?
Round thoughts: By the end of this round, we've seen 31 rushers, 30 receivers, 10 quarterbacks and 9 tight ends drafted; that's almost exactly 10 perfectly formed starting fantasy lineups. And that's not a bad way to think, though it's not an absolute must that you have your starting quarterback or tight end in tow by this point. Scarcity isn't much of an issue in a 10-team league. In such shallow leagues, I'm not in favor of drafting for need when you're filling in your bench. There are always more (flawed) players available. Take high-upside guys where possible, and don't worry too much about where they fit in behind your stars.
Scare picks: What is Jerome Harrison? Is he the guy who blew apart the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars in the final three games of '09? Or is he the change-of-pace back the Cleveland Browns always have claimed? Montario Hardesty will have a lot to say about that. Santana Moss was the No. 35 wideout in fantasy last season, and I've got him No. 27 here. That's not an insane leap given the arrival of Donovan McNabb, but Moss always has been so feast or famine that it's tough to love him here. Don't take LenDale White any higher than this. And hold your nose when you do take him. I think he'll probably lead Seattle in rushing touchdowns. But I just think he's an uninspiring straight-ahead runner without a ton of bulk any longer. He's worth a flier, but nothing more. Maybe someday the Buffalo Bills will surround Lee Evans with the talent necessary to let his skills shine. Nah.
Sleeper picks: Santonio Holmes will miss a month for a substance-abuse suspension, but when he comes back I think he'll eclipse Braylon Edwards as the New York Jets' deep threat. Devin Aromashodu and Golden Tate will both go higher than this in most drafts because of overhype. I like them in your draft's second half, but not before. Is the bloom completely off Donald Brown's rose after one injury-filled season? Joseph Addai owners should worry that it isn't. I don't think Kevin Kolb will get the Eagles to the playoffs, but he's more accurate than Donovan McNabb, which should make Philly's short passing game click better than it has in recent years.
Sleeper picks: Yes, Kenny Britt still has the same No. 1 upside I talked about in March. But the Tennessee Titans just don't throw it a bunch, plus he still has to officially win a starting job. Apparently, he showed up to minicamp out of shape. If Taylor winds up splitting the Chicago Bears' backfield job with Matt Forte and catching, say, 40 passes, he'll easily outperform this draft level. Tim Hightower is an utterly uninspiring runner, but he's a really good receiver and a nice banger when the Arizona Cardinals get on the goal line. I'm very high on Beanie Wells but can definitely imagine a scenario in which owners who draft Hightower get rewarded handsomely. Chaz Schilens is reportedly still dealing with the foot injury that ruined his '09 season, but if he gets right, his is a name to remember. Jason Campbell has the same big arm JaMarcus Russell does but actually knows the plays.
Sleeper picks: Some cranky part of my mind remembers Norv Turner raving about how LaDainian Tomlinson was going to win the rushing title last season, then flashes forward to Turner telling us Ryan Mathews is a shoo-in for 1,200 rushing yards. That same cranky part of my brain wants to draft Darren Sproles, just in case. Anquan Boldin is an injury waiting to happen, and when Boldin goes down, Derrick Mason goes back to being a No. 1 receiver for what might be an astoundingly good offense. Michael Bush is a better player than Darren McFadden. If the Oakland Raiders start running a meritocracy, Bush will outperform the other players in this round. Chad Henne gets Brandon Marshall, who can roll out of bed and catch 90 passes plus can make Henne's yardage totals look really good after the catch.
Sleeper picks: Chris Cooley has Fred Davis hanging around his position in D.C., and anything resembling a split job is going to kill both guys' fantasy values. But if Cooley is healthy and goes back to being a full-timer, you'll be mighty happy to have taken him here. Don't sleep on Johnny Knox as the possible winner as Mike Martz's favorite deep threat. That role served Isaac Bruce awfully well for about a decade. I prefer Knox to Devin Hester. Justin Forsett had to have been crushed when both LenDale White and Leon Washington became Seattle Seahawks on draft weekend, but each of those guys has major question marks, and Forsett is a tough, instinctive and shifty runner. I'm not going to faint if he winds up as the team's No. 1 back again at some point in '10. Remember: Bernard Berrian had an injured hammy for the entire '09 season.
Sleeper picks: There's no love any longer for Josh Morgan, one of my favorite sleepers two years ago, now that Michael Crabtree is in San Francisco. But if by necessity the 49ers go back to the shotgun this year, shouldn't there be enough catches for Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Morgan? I suppose getting a guy who ran for nine touchdowns last season in the 13th round would qualify as a bargain. I'm just so not a Laurence Maroney fan, but taking him here makes a lot of sense. Someone will score some short touchdowns in New England. Steve Slaton lost much of his luster this offseason, as he underwent neck surgery and then the Houston Texans drafted Ben Tate. Slaton claims he's 100 percent healthy, but no 300-pound people have tried to get after him recently. Still, he's a risk worth taking at this level. There's a not-insignificant chance that Early Doucet beats out Steve Breaston for the No. 2 receiving job in Arizona. Certainly, Doucet's game is a lot more like the departed Anquan Boldin's.
Sleeper picks: Buckhalter could be more than just a handcuff for Knowshon Moreno. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry last year, while Moreno averaged 3.8. If Leon Washington's broken leg heals completely (which is, as they say, a big if), he's the most talented player the Seahawks have, period. You have to believe that Lynch won't be on the Buffalo Bills' roster by Week 1. And if he lands someplace interesting (New England, perhaps?), he'll wind up being a steal in this round. No, Jason Campbell probably isn't putting it all together to lead a one-year silver-and-black resurrection. But he's a huge improvement under center. His accuracy was much better in '09, as was his decision-making. He still kills his NFL team with a bad play under pressing conditions, but for fantasy, you don't care about that. I think he's a high-upside No. 2 fantasy quarterback. I loved Golden Tate in college, loved his performance at the combine, and I think eventually he might turn into quite an outside receiver. But I don't trust the Seahawks' passing game right now, so I can't justify taking him any higher than this.
Sleeper picks: Three straight handcuffs to begin the round, as the first three picks of this draft see their backups join them. Things don't usually work out so orderly when the same person isn't controlling all 10 teams. From Team 4 forward, my overall ranks were bent just a bit, as the squads mostly took some high-upside young receivers. I don't think players like Demaryius Thomas, Arrelious Benn, Louis Murphy, Mohamed Massaquoi and Jacoby Jones are ready to be fantasy starters. But I'll bet at least one of them winds up turning a lot of heads early in '10.
Sleeper picks: Once again, please don't draft a kicker before the last round. You think you're being clever. You're not. They're basically random, and they're plentiful on the waiver wire.
Notable undrafted: Derrick Ward, Tashard Choice, Kevin Smith, Jerious Norwood, Eddie Royal, Dexter McCluster, Wes Welker, Lance Moore, Chris Chambers, Malcom Floyd, David Garrard, Matt Leinart, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, John Carlson, Greg Olsen.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.
Christopher Harris uses his Top 160 rankings to draft a full, 10-team league. By himself.