- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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For anyone seeking a little extra love for point-per-reception leagues, this one is for you. On July 17, 12 of the Worldwide Leader's finest gathered online for a mock draft for a PPR league -- a format in which standard fantasy scoring applies, except players receive a point every time they catch a pass -- and I'm here to pick through its bones.
Before we survey the picks, it's significant to note how the scoring differences in PPR leagues can change player evaluations. Here's how 2011 turned out in terms of Value-Based Drafting in PPR leagues:
As you can see, just because we award a point for every catch doesn't mean wideouts automatically dominate the fantasy landscape. Above you'll find 18 running backs listed, to go with 12 wide receivers, eight quarterbacks and two tight ends. That doesn't mean you must go RB early in your PPR league. It's just something to keep in mind as we proceed. It's also worth noting a few cases in which VBD value changes significantly when we go from standard to PPR scoring. For instance, Michael Turner's 2011 season drops from 12th to 20th overall when receptions matter (this makes sense, considering he had only 17 catches last season), while Roddy White jumps from 35th to 18th (he caught 100 passes). OK, let's get to the mock. The participants: KC Joyner, Eric Karabell, AJ Mass, Tristan Cockcroft, Keith Lipscomb, Stephania Bell, Brian Gramling, James Quintong, Shawn Cwalinski, Jim McCormick, Matthew Berry and yours truly.
(Click here if you would like to see rosters by team.)
Surprise, Surprise: Joyner said "phooey!" to my '11 VBD charts and opted for the relative safety of Rodgers, who I'm guessing won't have too many receptions in '12, first overall. Fancy Stat of the Round: CJ2K finished 51st in raw fantasy points last season, but he's averaged 48.5 grabs per season in his NFL career and the Titans are talking about passing more. Tittering to the Bank: Berry has to worry about an MJD contract holdout, but with the No. 11 overall pick, he got the NFL rushing champ and a guy who's averaged 43.3 catches per season since Fred Taylor left Jacksonville. Presumed Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: McCormick: "Sure, I wanted Mathews! But who cares! With Brady, my team just got a whole lot more handsome!" My Pick: I had my eye on Forte once CJ2K was off the board. My ideal (if unrealistic) wraparound would have been Mathews and Forte, two players with skills in common.
Surprise, Surprise: Karabell selected Lynch about five hours after it became known that the Seahawks RB had been arrested on a charge of driving under the influence. I had expected Lynch's free fall to last longer, but if and when he plays, he could be a big-time bargain for Eric. Fancy Stat of the Round: Fred Jackson led the NFL in average yards after the catch with 12.8. Arian Foster and Jonathan Stewart were the only other players who reached double digits. Tittering to the Bank: It's absolutely defensible to draft Graham ahead of Gronkowski, as Berry did here. Nevertheless, I have to believe Cwalinski did a happy little fist pump seeing the Patriots stud sitting there at No. 16. Presumed Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: Gramling: "All right, Andre Johnson! You've missed 12 games the past two years! Here's my grandma's healthy hamstring recipe: two parts baking soda, one part stretching!" My Pick: In the early rounds of a deeper league, if it's a close decision between different positions, I tend to go RB. Sproles nearly became the first RB in the 2000s to score 100-plus fantasy points with more receptions (86) than carries (87). He also led all RBs in targets last season with 111. I view him as a No. 1 RB in PPR leagues, and my starting backfield is set.
Surprise, Surprise: Peterson is the 15th RB selected. Depending on your perspective on "All Day" this season, that's a surprise because either (A) Lipscomb is relying on a guy who tore an ACL on Dec. 24, 2011, to be a fantasy starter, which is crazy; or (B) Lipscomb just suckered the league into giving him the most talented RB in the NFL -- who has vowed to play Week 1 -- for a mid-third-round pick, which is crazy. Fancy Stat of the Round: In '10, Wallace averaged 14.7 yards at the catch (i.e., how far down the field he was when he caught his average reception), which was No. 5 in the NFL. In '11, Wallace averaged 9.6 Y@C, which was 37th. So while he's still a scary deep threat, Wallace proved he could make plays all over the field. Tittering to the Bank: In standard scoring leagues, Marshall has finished between ninth and 13th in fantasy points among WRs for five consecutive years. Considering he's averaged nearly 95 catches per season during that time, he's worth even more in PPR leagues. McCormick is thrilled to get him No. 9 among WRs here. Presumed Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: Bell: "Mike Shanahan, so help me, if you start Tim Hightower over Helu in Week 1, I'm sticking pins in my russet-faced voodoo doll with the miniature coach's headset!" My Pick: Especially after writing this story about Newton, I really hoped he'd fall to me. Technically, Hakeem Nicks was next on my WR list, but when time came to pull the trigger, I balked at his broken foot. Instead, I took the mammoth upside of Jones, who led all qualified WRs in average yards after the catch in his rookie year.
Surprise, Surprise: Turner inspires wildly differing opinions. This is a guy who rushed for 1,340 yards last season and has double-digit TDs in each of the past four seasons. So what if he doesn't catch the ball? That's Mass' theory here, scooping up "The Burner" as the 20th RB selected. That's either unbelievable value or foolish, when potential pass-catchers such as Reggie Bush, Jahvid Best and Jonathan Stewart are on the board. Fancy Stat of the Round: It's a mistake to think Nelson's stellar '11 was only the result of big plays. He tied for sixth among NFL WRs in targets inside an opponent's 10; he caught five of 10 such targets for TDs. Tittering to the Bank: Quintong grabbed Smith, who finished seventh among WRs in my PPR VBD ranks last season, as the No. 14 WR drafted. Presumed Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: Lipscomb: "That's right, Harris! I'm drafting every dang player you've red-flagged as overvalued!" My Pick: Taking RBs early and waiting for WRs worked very well, in my estimation. I particularly wanted Harvin. A reason to like him (beyond his 87 catches last season): Harvin ranked seventh among wide receivers with 18 red zone targets in '11 and caught 11 of them, yet converted only two of those for TDs. That unlucky average could level out in '12.
Surprise, Surprise: Even if he still had his goal-line caddie job in New England, Green-Ellis might be a bit overdrafted in a PPR league at No. 59, considering he has 26 career catches in four pro seasons. In Cincinnati, with Bernard Scott almost certain to play heavy snaps? Yikes. But Berry hadn't drafted a RB since Round 1 and wanted to lock up some TDs, with very little on the board behind BJGE. Fancy Stat of the Round: Stewart quietly became one of the more dangerous receiving RBs in football last season. He had 47 catches to DeAngelo Williams' 16, and he averaged 11 yards after the catch (third in the NFL) and 8.8 yards per catch (eighth among RBs). We'll see whether Carolina's addition of Mike Tolbert changes J-Stew's usage pattern. Tittering to the Bank: Karabell added Bush as a most formidable flex; in PPR leagues, I'd rank Bush as my No. 17 RB, and here he goes 21st. Sure, he's a big injury risk, but name me the running backs who aren't. Presumed Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: Cockcroft: "Yeah! Jahvid Best and his 4.4 catch-per-game career average! Woohoo! Now Jahvid, if you could please just encase yourself in this bubble wrap!" My Pick: I have Manning pegged as a clear fourth-rounder in 12-team drafts, so getting him at the bottom of the fifth is pure value. To me, Manning looks like the No. 7 QB in all leagues, and if I don't get one of my preferred guys early, I'm happy to grab his 4,000-plus yards and 30-ish TDs.
Surprise, Surprise: Bell upended the TE apple cart, grabbing Gonzalez ahead of guys such as Davis, Hernandez and Finley, each of whom also went in this round. It's probably splitting hairs, but I prefer the younger guys. Gonzo has averaged 3 yards after the catch over the past two seasons, the lowest mark of any NFL TE. Still, he runs great routes and has amazing hands, so his floor is pretty darned high. Fancy Stat of the Round: Tate looked like an Arian Foster clone rushing the ball in '11, but not catching it. Foster saw 72 targets in 13 games, while Tate saw 19 targets in 15 games. I'm not saying Tate isn't the most valuable handcuff in fantasy (Karabell did the handcuffing here), but it's not fait accompli that he'd be just as valuable as an injured Foster in a PPR league. Tittering to the Bank: Sure, Finley had 11 drops last season, but he deserves to be higher than the No. 8 TE off the board. Joyner did well selecting Finley a full 27 picks after Jason Witten; I actually have Finley rated higher than Witten. Presumed Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: Cwalinski: "No, you Pittsburgh Steelers! You will not add another RB in training camp! Bad! Bad!" My Pick: I was torn over whether to take a tight end. When you've got the wraparound, you know the best guys will be gone by your next pick, but I felt I could produce more consistency with a top WR option at my flex. Stevie fits that bill. Eighty catches, 1,000 yards and high-single-digit TDs seem awfully safe for him.
Surprise, Surprise: Hey, it's pick No. 82, so I'm not freaked out about it, but McCormick taking Brown ahead of a TD maker (Wells) and a pass-catcher (Spiller) qualifies as a head-scratcher at this point, if only because the Colts don't figure to be good on offense. Also, Brown has 11, 20 and 16 catches in his three pro seasons. But at least he doesn't have much stellar backfield competition. Fancy Stat of the Round: Meachem's 60 targets tied him for 74th among WRs last season, and he's never caught more than 45 passes in a season. That means either he was buried in a deep receiving corps in New Orleans or he isn't very good. Tittering to the Bank: The duo of Cockcroft and Gramling waited for their signal-callers, and were rewarded with Peyton Manning and Rivers, two QBs who easily have merited second-round consideration in past seasons. Presumed Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: Joyner: "Say it with me now! DeSean Jackson getting paid is a good thing! DeSean Jackson getting paid is a good thing! DeSean Jackson getting paid is a good thing!" My Pick: After writing this story about Spiller, I'd talked myself into wanting him pretty badly in a PPR league. I believe 50 catches is an absolute floor for him in '12.
Surprise, Surprise: If you'd told me there'd be a single mock draft this summer in which DeAngelo Williams went one pick in front of Lamar Miller, I'd have said you were nuts. Mass has a good feeling about Miller (who has a shoulder issue), although it'll probably take an injury to Reggie Bush or Daniel Thomas for him to be more than a speed-gadget guy in '12. He's a few rounds too early here for my tastes. Fancy Stat of these Rounds: In the past three years, no rookie RB has finished higher than 18th in fantasy points, and only three (Knowshon Moreno, Jahvid Best and LeGarrette Blount) have finished higher than 30th. In that same span, eight rookie WRs have finished in their positional top 30. Translation: The three rookie WRs drafted in these rounds probably have a better shot at immediate impact than the three rookie RBs. Tittering to the Bank: Gramling grabbing Denarius Moore probably doesn't count as a coup; even at his best, Moore doesn't figure to be a high-volume receiver, and Carson Palmer looks to be on his last legs. But can Moore be a DeSean Jackson-like home run hitter? I think he can. Presumed Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: Joyner and Cockcroft, in perfect synchrony: "Remember when Mark Ingram and Daniel Thomas seemed kinda awesome? Remember when their respective ADPs were 64 and 78 in their rookie seasons? Whoops!" My Picks: Apparently I was flashing back to Mock Draft 1, in which I selected both Hillis and Young. Each of those guys is going to be on a lot of my teams this fall. I took Griffin for tradeable upside.
Surprise, Surprise: If we're throwing guys at the wall and seeing who sticks, you can do a lot worse than Bell did taking Scott at No. 139 overall. An 80-pick difference between Green-Ellis and Scott seems wacky, especially in a PPR league. Of the RBs drafted in these three rounds, I feel safest saying Scott could lead his team in fantasy points. Fancy Stat of these Rounds: Here go the defenses in earnest. Care to examine the six highest-ranked fantasy D/STs entering last season and where they finished? The Steelers were ranked No. 1, and they finished 10th in fantasy points. The next five highest-drafted units in order were: Packers (finished 14th), Eagles (6th), Jets (7th), Ravens (3rd) and Patriots (19th). Just in case you wonder why I advocate waiting to take your D. Tittering to the Bank: In light of Marshawn Lynch's pending legal troubles, the fact that Berry got Turbin at No. 155 overall looks pretty smart. Of course, Turbin is a rookie, and those guys often don't work out, so Leon Washington probably should also go in 12-team leagues (he wasn't drafted here). Presumed Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: Mass: "Hey, Andy Dalton! If Harris says he has a stronger throwing arm than you do one more time, you have my permission to wing footballs at his face a la Marcia Brady!" My Picks: What the I took a tight end? Whee! I'd already dug my TE grave, but it turned out waiting an extra couple of rounds was smart, as no player at that position was drafted between Nos. 101 and 132. Daniels is "just another guy" at this point, but I've got lots of ammunition for a trade if I need one. Wright is one such bullet. I think he will have a strong rookie campaign.
Surprise, Surprise: Stephen Gostkowski in the 14th. No. Just, no. Fancy Stat of these Rounds: Akers had an extraordinary season as fantasy's top kicker in 2011, but there wasn't even one fantasy point per week separating the No. 2 (John Kasay) and No. 9 (Robbie Gould) fantasy bootsmen in '11. That's why our experts almost all wait until the final round to take a kicker. Tittering to the Bank: Count me among those who think Chad Ochocinco is cooked and who consider Hartline an intriguing prospect. He's got the size and straight-ahead speed to be a legit outside receiver, although his route-running must get better. McCormick was able to get him late because Hartline had two catches or fewer in nine games last season. But there's a vacancy for a WR playmaker in Miami. Spiteful Shout at a Computer Screen: Me: "Thankfully there are two defenses left I like a lot, the Bills and Lions. Man, there go the Bills! Man, there go the Lions!" My Picks: This is the second consecutive 12-team mock in which I've drafted Tebow for a rainy day. And that rainy day likely will come in Week 6, when the Jets are 1-4. Say this about Tebow: There aren't too many other late-round lottery tickets who, if they suddenly start playing, are guaranteed fantasy starters.
Christopher Harris breaks down the ESPN fantasy football analysts' third mock draft, which features 12 teams and awarding a point per reception.