- Jim McCormick, Fantasy Sports
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Although "Texter Douglas" or "Sir Text-a-Lot" aka Brett Favre (whichever name you prefer) holds the fantasy world and the state of Minnesota in limbo, we at ESPN Fantasy decided to go ahead and conduct our second mock draft of the summer.
On the Fantasy Focus Football podcast this past Tuesday, Nate Ravitz and Matthew Berry discussed the intricacies of playing in a PPR (point-per-reception) league. They examined the pros and cons of the format, and in the end, Ravitz put it best. "Just try it, something different, something new."
So in the spirit of bringing you something different, we conducted a 12-team PPR draft with interesting results. Although the mystery in Minnesota loomed large over the draft room, it was simply one of many fluid scenarios that a fantasy manager must navigate this summer. Consider this merely an example of how the current fantasy market breaks down at this time of the offseason. More importantly, conduct some mocks yourself using our Mock Draft Lobby, as even Allen Iverson would suggest that you practice before draft day.
Participating in the mock draft with me were fellow analysts Matthew Berry, Christopher Harris, Eric Karabell, Ken Daube and AJ Mass, the Answer Guys' Shawn Cwalinski, and fantasy editors Nate Ravitz, Pierre Becquey, Brendan Roberts, Keith Lipscomb and James Quintong. To see the team-by-team draft results, click here.
Me: With five wideouts already off the board by my first selection, the No. 12 pick, I was compelled to go with Roddy White, who despite coming off what some may consider an inconsistent season was second only to Andre Johnson with 165 targets in 2009.
Them: Chris Johnson goes first, and for good reason, as he's averaged more than 46 receptions in his first two NFL campaigns. Plus, when he recently proclaimed that he's "
shooting for 2,500," it seemed far-fetched, but certainly not absurd. Some may think that it was absurd for Adrian Peterson to slip to Berry given that he (Peterson, not Berry) more than doubled his previous career best in receptions last season with 43 catches and eight outings with three or more catches. Although Berry admittedly lowered his expectations for the other Vikings skill guys given the current Favrean conundrum, he is still confident in the purple-clad starting tailback: "I don't feel it affects Peterson at all -- I was happy to get him at No. 4, regardless of who is under center." Steven Jackson crept up three spots from our first mock of the summer, as his reception résumé may have made up for his enduring durability and scoring concerns. The round was truly defined, however, by the six wide receivers who were rostered.
Chatter: As Becquey was moving his cursor over the "draft" button, he warned the room that the "first PPR bump" was coming right up with the Ray Rice selection. His reasoning for the move? "I know, even in this [PPR] format, Rice finished 37 points behind AP last season," Becquey said. "But I think Rice closes that gap and then some this season because I don't think Peterson is going to score 18 touchdowns again and I can totally see Rice improving on his rushing stats while maintaining not only the catches, but the receiving yardage advantage over Peterson. I thought Rice made the safer, more consistent pick with a more realizable upside. That said, if I had pick No. 3, it'd have been AP over MJD, who scared me a bit."
Me: In the seconds leading up to my selection of Rodgers, I was seriously considering Miles Austin and Drew Brees in his place. Having owned Rodgers in several leagues during the past two seasons, though, I've grown to enjoy his consistently awesome outings. It's possibly too early for a signal-caller, but I can live with it.
Them: If the first round was all about wideouts and running backs, the second can be considered the best-available round, as four quarterbacks, four wide receivers and four running backs went off the board. Daube seems somewhat bullish on Brady (taking him at 19th overall after netting him with the 35th in June's mock), but he's long been the type to confidently pursue the guys he prefers. His explanation below is good enough for me. It does seem that those willing to forgive a lack of receiving potential and pedigree can net some solid value, as talents like Rashard Mendenhall and Michael Turner might slip into the late second round in a PPR context.
Chatter: Daube set forth his easy-to-follow fantasy ideology as he acquired Brady: "Points are points. I don't care how I get them, I just want them." Kind of sounds like my take on steaks and wings. Berry felt he saw a tier drop on the way when he was on the clock. "I felt Steve Smith [Carolina] was the last elite No. 1 wide receiver left, so it was a need pick," he said. "Very tough to pass on Michael Turner there, but I felt that I had a better shot getting good running back production later than I did an elite wide receiver. Despite all the QB issues last year, Smith was still a top-20 fantasy wide receiver for the fifth year, and in the three games that Smith and Matt Moore both started, Smith had 16 receptions for 300 yards and three touchdowns, including a score in each game. So I think there's no way things will be worse than last year."
Me: My allegiance to the Eagles aside, it seems that DeSean Jackson slipped to me because of his decidedly low reception numbers compared with the stats of his elite wideout peers. Given that there should be somewhat of a shift in the Philly offense to a more pure West Coast look versus the decidedly vertical game we grew accustomed to in the latter stages of the Donovan McNabb era, I think that we'll see a boost in total receptions for Jackson even if they're at the potential cost of some of the home run plays.
Them: Cedric Benson and Shonn Greene were nabbed at deflated prices because they are low-reception, two-down backs, while Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy saw marked jumps in value as receiving mavens. The move that seems most induced by the PPR presence is Becquey's selection of Dallas Clark early in the round. Daube reasoned that if "Clark catches 90 balls, then it seems right."
Chatter: Karabell was happy to land Greene and his 2009 total of zero receptions. "I understand how the PPR rules should direct fantasy owners toward running backs who catch passes, and Greene is really unlikely to catch passes, but he's still really good! Not every player has to catch passes," he said. "I was a bit surprised how a running back I gave some top-10 consideration could slip to pick 31. I didn't hesitate to grab him there. Then again, if I hadn't locked up Frank Gore earlier, I might have gone Matt Forte there. The point is, fantasy owners should understand the rules and tailor teams that way, but don't overrate them. Greene, Michael Turner and Cedric Benson are still worth owning in PPR formats." Editor extraordinaire James Quintong also invested in the slipping tailback market. "I wasn't too enthused with the top-rated wide receivers left," he said, "so why not go for three strong running backs?"
Fellow editor Brendan Roberts thinks "Shady" McCoy is an ideal PPR acquisition. "He's 'the man' now in the Eagles' backfield, and I think they'll lean on him a lot," Roberts said. "Considering the diversity and creativity of that offense, and the relative inexperience of new quarterback Kevin Kolb, any Eagles back will need to be able to catch dump-off passes and screens. McCoy might not be as adept as Brian Westbrook in that regard, but he is up to the challenge, catching 40 passes despite getting fewer than 10 touches in eight games last season. We have him projected to catch 60 passes, and I think that's definitely on the low side. In fact, I think he'll finish with 70 or more. Combine that with more than 1,000 yards rushing and, say, seven to nine touchdowns, and you have a very productive PPR back. McCoy is nothing flashy, but it's all about the touches and opportunities in PPR leagues, especially if a lot of those touches come through the air."
Me: The word on the street, or in Flagstaff, Ariz., is that Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has been talking up Wells as a complete back now that he's picking up the blitz significantly better than in his rookie campaign. Clearly Tim Hightower remains in the picture and is a deft receiver out of the backfield, but the fact that Wells broke off four receptions for more than 20 yards last season surprised me. Not to reel off a "crutch argument," as Christopher Harris would say, but it does seem likely that the team will look to run the ball more given the shift behind center and at the wideout position.
Them: Jahvid Best appeared on a few sleeper lists in the post-draft survey I sent out, and "C-Dub" Shawn Cwalinski was of course a proponent of the Detroit rookie. Berry and Mass netted the last of the supposed "elites" at the quarterback position, while Daube invested in Wes Welker's recovering knee in hopes of landing a PPR steal.
Chatter: In discussing his consecutive tailback selections in the fourth and fifth rounds, Cwalinski determined that he liked "Best the best of the two. He will be starting for the Lions, who will have a better offense this season. I can see him managing 1,000 yards rushing and catching 50 passes this season." Daube backed up his Welker pick with zeal: "Wes Welker is a clear No. 1 wide receiver in PPR formats. I have no problem projecting him for 110 catches."
Me: My search for a second back led me to Justin Forsett. There is certainly some mystery surrounding the eventual workload breakdown in Seattle, but because Forsett has a proven ability to excel in the short passing game, I felt he was worthy of a midround risk. We currently have him projected to amass nearly 1,300 total yards and six scores, numbers I'd welcome at this cost.
Them: The first six selections of the round were wideouts who are a mixture of upside youngsters -- Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Michael Crabtree -- and varied vets -- Hines Ward, Dwayne Bowe and Sidney Rice. Rice went 37th overall in our non-PPR mock from June and serves as an example of just how much Favre's current circus can deflate the Minnesota talents not named Peterson.
Chatter: "Lord help me, I actually like Bowe," Berry said just seconds after making his pick, to which Roberts quickly quipped, "Famous last words." Roberts discussed his selection of Rice. "I felt we overreacted to a 'potential' Favre retirement by virtually ignoring the Vikings' receivers," he said. "Favre or no, I was pleased to get Sidney Rice with the 53rd pick after such relatively unproven guys such as Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe. I mean, Rice had 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009, and is a talented receiver in the prime of his career. He finished eighth in ESPN standard scoring last season. There's no way, even without Favre, that he goes back to being ignored in that offense; he'll get his yards and scores regardless, and there's no way he should have been the 21st WR taken."
Ravitz felt compelled to grab "The Hyphen," Sims-Walker, as he saw a drop-off looming at the position. "I don't see him as being especially good in PPR versus a standard format," Ravitz said. "I just believe strongly in having three high-quality receivers and felt there would be a big drop-off if I didn't take him in Round 5. I believe he's significantly better than the next few receivers taken: [Hakeem] Nicks, V-Jax (considering the suspension/holdout), [Donald] Driver and [Percy] Harvin."
Me: I'm banking that my third running back, Reggie Bush, who plays almost solely on third downs, will net me a volume of receptions and a respectable number of end zone visits in his limited looks. An impressively physical effort in the playoffs has seen his waning fantasy stock return to midround status. I certainly took a risk here, but the PPR element seems to buffer it somewhat.
Them: It seems as if this round ushered in a volume of risk and uncertainty as legitimate questions surround nearly every player outside of, say, the solid Brent Celek and Donald Driver. Mass seems to have found significant value in T.J. Houshmandzadeh as he was tied for 12th in targets last season with 135. Given the point-per-reception element, you can forgive a lesser touchdown total with the Seattle veteran. Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown continue on the similar average draft position path, as a single round separates them. I'm not sure this is going to change much without some sort of preseason injury.
Chatter: With an agenda to mine the Minnesota talents for value, Roberts said, "Not surprisingly, I ended up with Harvin with pick No. 68. And I'm just as pleased with that pick as I am with [Sidney] Rice, especially now that Favre is waffling."
Harris explained his affinity for the Baltimore signal-caller. "Flacco started '09 strong and suffered a very bad bruise all the way up and down one side, which I think accounts for some of his tentative play late in the season," he said. "The weapons are upgraded, but mostly I think Flacco enters his third season with all the physical tools he could possibly need, an offense that's willing to throw it and more experience. I have him as a top-10 fantasy option."
Me: I potentially gaffed here somewhat with the recovering Owen Daniels when I could have waited for Oakland's Zach Miller, a player I had queued but didn't have the patience for at the time. Daniels could still very well excel in a PPR or standard format if he's healthy, especially in that dynamic Houston passing scheme. Only thing is that "ifs" aren't very fun in fantasy.
Them: The run on tight ends may have influenced my selection of Daniels, as I was pacing for Witten given his amazing PPR impact. Keith Lipscomb made a relatively bold investment in Terrell Owens, but when you consider the risks associated with the wideouts who went directly after him, the pick looks more promising. The Buffalo backfield duo was drafted just a pick apart, making the likelihood that you can handcuff them less likely than most other scenarios. In other news, a guy named Pierre drafted a guy named Pierre.
Chatter: Berry believes that "Derrick Mason continues to be way underrated, especially in this format."
Quintong's selection of Santana Moss had him comparing Moss to a former McNabb target. "He has always been a boom-or-bust receiver in my mind, since he always seems to have a couple of games per year where he'll pull off a big play or two, leading to a big fantasy-point effort," he said. "He can still pull that off with McNabb, who was connecting with DeSean Jackson for big plays last year. Moss still has that in him, and McNabb can help that out. I wouldn't rely on him as an every-week starter, but he's definitely a guy on my radar for a flex play in the right week."
Me: First of all, I like having a guy named Donald on my team, and Mr. Driver was gone. That, and I like the upside Brown has as a home run threat, and if he can improve on his hapless pass-blocking from last season, his potential to share the workload with Joseph Addai isn't completely out of the question. The downside is that while Indianapolis is home to a great offense, it's one that rarely runs the ball.
Them: Six backup or committee running backs (including Brown) were taken, each with his own blend of merits and drawbacks. Several in the draft mentioned that they felt Karabell netted sound value with Eli Manning, particularly with how long Karabell was able to wait to net a starting fantasy arm.
Chatter: The Manning talk continued with Roberts lamenting over not netting him. "I had Eli all queued up and ready, didn't think anyone else wanted him," he said. To which Karabell replied, "I didn't say I wanted him ..."
When Quintong finished the round with the Sproles selection, Berry also admitted some remorse in not landing his target, "[expletive], I thought Sproles would fall to me," he said, followed by a further series of creatively crafted words toward the esteemed editor.
Me: Did I go early on Early Doucet? Possibly, but the lure of his breakout playoff performance against the Packers and the buzz about his promising offseason sold me. Didn't I mention earlier that I believe that the Cardinals will lean on the running game more this season? There are no fantasy points for contradictions.
Them: A few former fantasy studs highlighted the round, as Karabell built on his low-reception tailback collection with Thomas Jones, while the Steve Slaton selection shows just how far the guy's stock has plummeted given that late last summer he was a first-round regular. Of the wideouts taken, Santonio Holmes has some legit upside but could take until the final third of the season for his numbers to materialize. Despite the languishing passing offense in Buffalo during the past several seasons, Harris paid a reduced price tag for the talented, if enigmatic, Lee Evans.
Chatter: Some lively banter over the expiration date of Jones' fantasy value ensued, with the consensus being that he still bears some limited upside.
Me: I was lucky not to have torn anything reaching for the Jets' defense here. Drafting Owen Daniels earlier came back to haunt me as Oakland's Miller was available. There are also no points for regret in fantasy.
Them: Lipscomb landed a promising Chicago wideout in Devin Aromashodu, while Daube also netted some value with Devin Hester. One of the Devins is going to be solid in that offense, right? I'm also not sure how we all let Harris get such great value with Malcom Floyd. Sure, he's no reception magnet, but his upside as a Vincent Jackson clone is unquestioned.
Chatter: Berry and Ravitz discussed the LaDainian Tomlinson selection and his overall value at length on Wednesday's podcast, concluding that while he's in the twilight of his career, he does have a potentially useful share of New York's run-heavy offense.
Me: In Derrick Ward and Bernard Scott, I feel like I netted a pair of solid third-down options, with the possibility of more if their respective incumbents falter or get injured. Mohamed Massaquoi should be heavily targeted as the rare set of (somewhat) proven hands in Cleveland.
Them: That guy Favre got drafted shrewdly by Harris, while Roberts seems to have found a nice late-round combo of Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger. There's some great value to be had with Big Ben if you can pair him with another relatively cheap and trusted veteran. Former PPR legend Brian Westbrook found a fantasy team before a real one and will remain a late-round flier until he gets the crest back on his chest. Daube made a great point with his Edelman selection: "I can't believe I just handcuffed a wide receiver." Rookie Mike Williams appears set to start in Tampa and likely can be had at a cheaper price than fellow freshman Golden Tate.
Me: I interviewed Arrelious Benn when he was in high school. He was big then, and I'm assuming he's larger now. Hopefully this bears out statistically. Chicago's Greg Olsen represented some value particularly because I invested in the recovering Daniels. If you are going to draft a kicker, he might as well be the one who boasts a black belt, right?
Them: Ravitz landed Mewelde Moore in a nice spot given that he has some quality PPR value as a capable backfield receiver. Meanwhile, Harris kept up the receiver larceny with Jabar Gaffney, who very well could be the leading receiver in Denver this season. Outside of the kickers and defenses that dominated much of this stretch, it was kind of telling to see just where Larry Johnson landed: between Lawrence Tynes and Neil Rackers.
Jim McCormick is an IDP and fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com as well as a regular contributor to The Washington Post's "The League" and Sirius XM's Fantasy Sports Channel.