- AJ Mass, Rumor Central
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As the old saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. When it comes to coming up with a system of rules for a fantasy football league, there are many options at your disposal. Although ESPN has its own standard set of rules, we recognize that those are by no means universal.
With that in mind as we continue our journey through the mock draft season, our goal is to sample a wide variety of formats, and this latest foray into the draft room throws the wrinkle of a two-QB starting lineup into the mix. What effect will this extra starting slot have on the pecking order? As you'll shortly see, it indeed makes quite a difference.
The participants for this exercise, which utilized the scoring rules for ESPN standard leagues, in a randomly determined first-round order were: Eric Karabell, Christopher Harris, Matthew Berry, Stephania Bell, Jim McCormick, Dave Hunter, Tristan H. Cockcroft, James Quintong, KC Joyner and me.
Here's a complete round-by-round breakdown of our selections. As usual, I'll try to outline what my thought process was each time my turn came around, as well as reach out to some of my colleagues regarding some of the more interesting picks they made.
Round 1 analysis: Although Arian Foster still makes it off the board to Karabell in the No. 1 position, this round is dominated by quarterbacks, as one might suspect in this format. Typically quarterbacks are going to score more points than players at any other position. In fact in 2011, eight of the overall top-10 point-earners in ESPN standard scoring were QBs.
Given that there are 10 owners, two starting QBs per owner, plus a bye week for both that behooves one to draft a third QB as a fill-in and a pool of only 32 full-time No. 1 starters from which to pull, it's hard to argue against selecting your first signal-caller in Round 1.
Quintong, as he put it, went swinging for the fences with Cam Newton at No. 8 overall. "Obviously, the two-QB format seems to push more quarterbacks earlier in the draft, and potentially moves a few decent running backs and receivers slightly lower in the draft than we usually expect." If Newton comes even close to approaching last season's numbers, the risk here will be worth it.
My bookend picks: Calvin Johnson and Matt Forte. I decided not to take a quarterback here, as I was already frozen out of the top five names, though I would have happily claimed Newton had he been there. Since that didn't happen, my hope was that by claiming the top wide receiver and a top running back I could avoid falling way behind at either of these positions while I watched the next 18 names fly off the board. I was hoping that nobody would grab their second quarterback over that stretch and, as such, I'd still be able to have a top-10 QB to go along with Megatron and Forte. That's a great foundation to build on.
Round 2 analysis: Joyner takes Maurice Jones-Drew, whose value clearly falls a bit because of his current holdout. Eli Manning is the only quarterback to be selected in this round as the top wide receivers start to get the call. Harris selected Marshawn Lynch, who he'll admit has "the whiff of a one-year wonder about him," but given the long wait after grabbing Rodgers he rolled the dice with the upside of Lynch and DeMarco Murray, whom he selected three spots later.
The dynamic duo of record-setting tight ends both went off the board in this round. Bell took Jimmy Graham one pick ahead of Berry, who went to the New England Patriots' well for a second time with Rob Gronkowski. Clearly the Talented Mr. Roto has no fear about his top two selections residing in the same huddle. At this stage of the draft, you take the player who's the best on the board regardless of position, and regardless of uniform.
Round 3 analysis: Karabell plays the waiting game with his first quarterback, as he goes with two wide receivers at this stage of the draft. He may not have done so if more QBs had gone in Round 2, but with only two WRs required in a legal lineup it's hard to argue that Roddy White and Greg Jennings aren't as good a combination with which one can leave a draft. Hunter throws a curveball into the proceedings by grabbing Tony Romo at this point, the first to nab a second QB. This was his strategy going in: to grab one of the top-three running backs then grab two upper-echelon quarterbacks. It's hard to argue with his grabbing what could easily prove to be a combined 9,000 yards of passing.
My bookend picks: Peyton Manning and Michael Turner. I'm totally happy with getting Manning here and I don't feel like I'm playing catch-up at the position at all. To add Turner to the mix, a running back I believe to be incredibly undervalued amid a sea of question marks at the position, only adds to my good feelings at the moment. I'll leave the injury risks at running back to my colleagues to sort through in the next two rounds.
Round 4: One of the aforementioned injury risks is Ryan Mathews, a pick that could provide Berry with the steal of the draft. Sure his broken collarbone may keep him out for a game or two, but he probably would have been off the board no later than pick No. 12 had the injury not occurred, and most of his missed time should be in those meaningless-to-fantasy preseason affairs.
Harris went with Steve Smith, an interesting pick given how much focus there is on the run in Carolina. Still, Harris trusts that Newton won't ignore Smith and expects the No. 6 WR in fantasy last season to come close to the same kind of production in 2012, making him a safe low-end No. 1 fantasy WR.
Round 5 analysis: Karabell finally grabbed his first QB at the end of Round 4 in Ben Roethlisberger and doubled down with Matt Schaub to kick off Round 5. There are a lot of question marks in this duo in terms of injury history and offensive line issues, but we're far from scraping the bottom of the barrel here.
Meanwhile, McCormick's selection of Trent Richardson at No. 45 kind of shows how quickly the running back position can drop off, even with all those extra QBs being taken early. He's a rookie with knee issues and is playing in an incredibly inexperienced huddle in Cleveland. And yet, I can't argue with McCormick when he says that he felt he could afford to take the risk here given the alternatives on the board. At least you know Richardson, when healthy, is the one who will get the carries.
My bookend picks: Darren Sproles and Percy Harvin. I was all set to take Antonio Gates, when Joyner snaked him from me, so I instead went with Sproles. He's not the traditional running back by any means, with few handoffs but a whopping 111 targets last season. Really, the flex spot was made for him, and he'll slot in nicely there. Harvin is a game-time lineup decision on a regular basis, but when he plays he's rock solid. If the Vikings do decide to have him on the field for more than 58 percent of their snaps this season, he'll easily return to the top 10 at the WR position. After all, he was No. 8 last season with those "handcuffs" on him.
Round 6 analysis: Joyner selected Carson Palmer, whose current average draft position has him being taken as the 21st quarterback in ESPN Live Drafts, as his second starter here, so I thought I'd delve into what he sees in Palmer that others clearly don't. Joyner thinks people aren't putting his 2011 numbers in their proper perspective.
He was fifth overall in yards per attempt, and if you prorated his stats in the final nine games of the season out to a full year's schedule, he would have ended up No. 10 at the position. Perhaps knowing that nobody else in this draft likely feels the same way, he could have waited a round or two, but when you like a player this much you should take him, regardless of what "everybody else thinks."
Round 7 analysis: You want to sum up the difference between a two-QB league and any other format? I'll do it in two words: Ryan Fitzpatrick. Yes, the Buffalo quarterback goes from being a 14th-round selection to getting taken off the board by Bell in Round 7 without most people even batting an eye.
Clearly Bell has confidence in the Bills' offense, as she had selected Steve Johnson in Round 6 and Fred Jackson in Round 3. I'm not a fan of putting too many eggs into one basket, but on weeks in which Buffalo clicks -- and it did score 21 or more points 10 times last season and 30 or more five times -- Bell is sure to be on the fast track to victory.
My bookend picks: Dwayne Bowe and Stevan Ridley. If Bowe's holdout was the reason he fell to me here, I'll take it. What's not to like about a guy who is a pretty solid bet for 80 catches and over 1,100 yards at this point of the draft? Ridley is on the Patriots, and we all know how unreliable any individual RB in Bill Belichick's system can be. However, Ridley ranks No. 16 overall in TD-only leagues, which speaks to his "nose" for the end zone. As my No. 4 running back, I'll take the gamble.
Rounds 8-10 analysis: Karabell selects Jonathan Stewart and Shonn Greene to go along with his previous two selections of Roy Helu and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Clearly he's loading the bench and hoping that at least one of these guys can join Foster in his starting lineup on a regular basis. Any one of the quartet is capable of reaching 1,000 yards if things break right, so it appears that shunning RBs and grabbing his WRs early might not hurt him too much after all.
The next tier of tight ends start to go off the board, as even with the flex spot open to them most owners are going to draft only one, so unless you can steal the Graham/Gronkowski double, it pays to wait. Quintong takes Vernon Davis two picks ahead of Hunter, but that doesn't influence his pick here. Witten was always Hunter's target, calling him "one of the most consistent tight ends in the game from season to season."
This is the portion of the draft in which many owners went with riskier fliers in the hopes that they'd pay off. One of those picks was Cockcroft's selection of Denarius Moore in Round 9. "Look at who else was available at wide receiver: Michael Crabtree? Santonio Holmes? Yuck to both! Reggie Wayne? Robert Meachem? Neither of those guys has as much upside as does Moore. Kenny Britt? Ha!"
My bookend picks: Aaron Hernandez and Andy Dalton. I agree with Hunter that you shouldn't draft a player at a position simply because a run takes place, but after Davis, Witten and Jermichael Finley went off the board, and given my bookend position in the snake draft, I had to grab Hernandez here as he was the last man standing in his tier. And if A.J. Green is good enough to go in Round 4, Dalton should be good enough to handle my second QB slot. But just to make sure, I plan on grabbing two more bodies before this draft is over. As I've said before, quarterbacks score more points than any other position. I don't want to be left with nothing in reserve should my gunslingers stumble or get hurt.
Rounds 11-13: This is when you should take your tight end, should you be one of the owners who has held out in doing so up until now. Tony Gonzalez, Jacob Tamme and Jared Cook went off the board in this part of the draft. The first defense went off the board as well in Round 10 in the shape of the San Francisco 49ers to Joyner. Houston and Chicago also were selected during these three rounds, but most owners were content to wait even longer than this. This is typical of ESPN expert mocks, but if ADP is to be believed most leagues don't see owners with as much patience at this position. As such, you might want to consider shaving a few rounds off the draft positions found here.
My picks: I went with LeGarrette Blount, who I think might recapture the same kind of magic he had in 2010 when he split time with Cadillac Williams, even if Doug Martin gets a lot of touches for new coach Greg Schiano. Also joining my team here is Tim Tebow, who would have practically no value in a traditional league because of the uncertainty of how much he will play. In a two-QB league, however, you need quarterbacks who you know will be on the field, and even if it is just in small doses, odds are good Tebow gets at least a few snaps per game. Alshon Jeffery is a rookie roll of the dice, but he has looked good so far in Chicago Bears camp and could well end up starting opposite Brandon Marshall as early as Week 1. Why not?
Rounds 14-16: This is the point of the draft in which you simply grab players at positions you feel you are lacking depth or rookies who you hope develop quickly into household names. We're talking players such as Justin Blackmon, Rueben Randle, Robert Turbin and Isaiah Pead. Odds are not all of these players will end up lighting up fantasy scoreboards, but odds are at least one will. In the spirit of "you've got to be in it to win it," step up and buy your lottery ticket today!
My picks: You can never have enough quarterbacks in this format, so I'll add Ryan Tannehill to my intrepid squad. With David Garrard hurt and Matt Moore as the only other option standing in his way to become the Miami starter, I expect offensive coordinator Mike Sherman to lobby hard for his former college charge. All teams eventually do need a defense, and my fantasy squad is no exception. The New York Giants are the 11th team being selected, according to current ADP, but with Dallas (poor offensive line), Tampa Bay and Cleveland among their first five opponents, I certainly am optimistic for them to have a strong start. If not, we'll adjust accordingly on the wire. Finally, Jacquizz Rodgers serves as a Turner handcuff, just in case I'm wrong on him. (Hey, these things do happen.)
Round 17: As always, this round is the time to grab that all-important yet impossible to predict top kicker from the usual suspects. I'm taking a chance on the strong leg of rookie Greg Zuerlein, who is replacing Josh Brown in St. Louis. Any time a team uses a draft pick on a kicker, I take notice. But really, any pick will do.
Well, there you have it. Remember, every draft is different. Change one pick and the whole sequence of selections from that point on can go in a completely different direction. However, this latest mock draft should give you a good starting point from which to make your decisions as to the general neighborhood in which players currently rank relative to each other. But when the time comes to pull the trigger, the choice is yours to make. Choose wisely!
AJ Mass breaks down the ESPN fantasy football analysts' fifth mock draft, which starts two QBs and features 10 teams and standard scoring.