C3 Fantasy League Corner: The Commish's Analysis of League Rucker by Rounds, 1-5

Howdy once more, folks. This particular post is partly for people who haven't had their league draft to see how a live draft recently went. Not a MOCK live draft; we were drafting our teams for real.

I'll have to break this up into smaller pieces since listing the 12 players each round along with my thoughts would take up an enormous amount of space so hang with me. The early rounds are the most looked-after anyhow. Yes, it's a serpentine-style draft and the asterisk denotes my draft pick that round.

Also keep in mind when I use terms like "reach" and "value" it's all relative to prevailing thought and the actual draft spot the player was chosen in. I'll be speaking in terms of fantasy value only.

"FV:" at the end of each guy's description has an approximation of what I consider his RELATIVE fantasy value to be irrespective of the role he plays on his team. It's about FP (Fantasy Points), nothing else, and reflects the player's ceiling:

Round One

1. LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI

2. Jamaal Charles, RB, KC
3. Eddie Lacy, RB, GB
4. Matt Forte, RB, CHI
5. Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN
6. Peyton Manning, QB, DEN
7. Jimmy Graham, TE, NO*
8,  Calvin Johnson, WR, DET
9,  Dez Bryant, WR, DAL
10. Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
11. Drew Brees, QB, NO
12. Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA

* I took Graham myself due to positional scarcity and the fact remains that he will, once again and with more certainty than with other positions, project to out-produce the #2 TE by a wide margin as Drew Brees' favorite target. FV: High-end TE1

Safest Pick: LeSean McCoy - in a PPR league (or a half PPR league as one GM noted) should be tops in yards from scrimmage again in Chip Kelley's offense. Jamaal Charles isn't in quite as good a situation as last season, entering the campaign with a minor nagging foot injury and KC's offensive line isn't as good as last year's version. Still, they'll lean on him heavily but I just don't think quite as many yards will be there for him through no fault of his own. In the end, the difference shouldn't be huge.  FV: high-end RB1

Best Value Pick: Marshawn Lynch - Beast Mode has fallen from about 8th ADP (Average Draft Position) to 12th here for a 50% discount. He's been sliding in the past few weeks and for no reason that I can see, so he was the best value here. FV: RB1

Biggest Reach: Dez Bryant - At 9th overall, with Tony Romo's back still a question mark, and second-year wideout Terrance Williams returning, Dez could see his targets decline a tad or Romo's health could induce a few more shorter routes in general, especially early on in the season. The team seems more committed to the run with DeMarco Murray than they have been (assuming HE can stay healthy) and it all adds up to a little lower ceiling for Dez this year. Then again, it IS a contract year for him, so there are a lot of moving parts to this one. The defense is atrocious, which should mean Romo throws a lot if they can't keep games close on the ground. Lots of "ifs" here for 9th overall. FV: mid-to-high WR1

Biggest Surprise Choice: Eddie Lacy - Let's face it. It's hard to make a BAD pick at all in the first round. I just am not sure about taking Lacy that high after missing a significant part of his rookie season with an injury. His running style - over you not around you - doesn't help the durability concerns and he won't be getting many bonus FP for long scoring plays. I would have taken Forte here for the receptions, yardage, and superior speed to get an occasional scoring home run. Short-yardage TDs could help. FV: mid-to-high RB1

Round Two

1. A.J. Green, WR, CIN

2. Montee Ball, RB, DEN
3. Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN
4. DeMarco Murray, RB, DAL
5. Giovanni Bernard, RB, CIN
6. Arian Foster, RB, HOU*
7. Alfred Morris, RB, WAS
8. Alshon Jeffery, WR, CHI
9. Jordy Nelson, WR, GB
10. Zac Stacy, RB, STL
11. Le'Veon Bell, RB, PIT
12. Brandon Marshall, WR, Cin

* I took Foster because in letting Ben Tate walk, the Texans are going all-in on Foster this season. Since Foster can both run and catch in an unsettled QB situation, he could benefit from the PPR portion of the scoring, and has been known to notch up a long scoring play despite not having elite speed. Basically, he should see his share of touches overall. FV: RB1

Safest Pick: Demaryius Thomas - He's Peyton Manning's favorite target and a home-run threat in an offense way more prolific than A.J. Green's. What's not to like? FV: High-end WR1

Best Value Pick: Jordy Nelson - He simply puts up the fantasy numbers and if AR-12 is healthy all year, look out! FV: High-end WR1

Biggest Reach: Le'Veon Bell - With his recent DUI/marijuana arrest, his status for the season is uncertain. He should be the guy to use while he's there, but could be suspended for several games - we don't know yet. The second round isn't the place to roll the dice. FV: mid to low-end RB1

Biggest Surprise Pick: Alshon Jeffery - Yes, I know he and Brandon Marshall are projected to be FP twins this season, but Marshall's done it consistently and has a long history with Jay Cutler going back to their days in Denver together. Then again, the pick is understandable, considering it's a Panthers fan league, lots of participants are in the Carolinas, and Jeffery is a recent REAL USC-school product...but Marshall was still on the board. FV: mid-WR1

Round Three

1. Julio Jones, WR, ATL

2. Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE
3. Toby Gerhart, RB, JAX
4. Julius Thomas, TE, DEN
5. Doug Martin, RB, TB
6. Andre Ellington, RB, ARI
7. Antonio Brown, WR, PIT*
8. Randall Cobb, WR, GB
9. Keenan Allen, WR, SD
10. Pierre Garcon, WR, WAS
11. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI
12. Matthew Stafford, QB, DET

* I took Antonio Brown as a fairly high-end WR1 in terms of FP because with Sanders gone, Big Ben is going to look for Brown at least as much as he did last season, especially if/when La'Veon Bell isn't available. 110 rec 1500 yards and 8 TDs is rockin'. FV: mid-to-high WR1

Safest Pick: Keenan Allen - Allen was the only rookie WR last year to surpass a thousand yards. Word coming out of college was that all he does is catch everything thrown his way, and he proved that last year. Now that he's got a year under his belt, he should only be that much better. FV: mid-to-high WR1

Best Value Pick: Andre Ellington - He looks to be the featured back in Arizona and catches a LOT of passes, which only should increase his stock. There are durability concerns regarding his 193 pound frame, but his extensive short-passing work should help alleviate the inside runs he'll also be asked to do sometimes. Then again, a few of the best RBs in history weren't more than 10 pounds bigger than he, if that. Toby Gerhart is a very close second here but I'm not quite sold on Jax's o-line where I think Arizona has improved theirs. FV: high-end RB2

Biggest Reach: Doug Martin - He's coming of a bit of a nasty season-ending muscle tear injury, has a new head coach in Lovie Smith, and rumor has it that he'll be in more of a BBC (Backfield By Committee) situation than he was last year. The Bucs went 100% offense in the draft, so Martin's overall role is too uncertain for me here. Ellington and Rashad Jennings were both available. FV: RB2

Biggest Surprise Pick: Julius Thomas - Thomas had 788 yards receiving last year, but also had 12 TDs to go along with it. Peyton spreads the wealth around in his offense and I've already mentioned how Thomas is his #1 target. Unless Peyton surpasses 50 TDs again this year, Julius' numbers will drop as well and very similar TE production could likely be had a bit later in the draft. I'm not yet convinced that Thomas is the 3rd best TE in FF behind the two Gs - if Gronk stays healthy. FV: TE1

Round Four

1. DeSean Jackson, WR, WAS
2. Rashad Jennings, RB, NYG
3. Reggie Bush, RB, DET
4. Jordan Cameron, TE, CLE
5. Ryan Matthews, RB, SD
6. Tom Brady, QB, NE*
7. Vincent Jackson, WR, TB
8. C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF
9. Andre Johnson, WR, HOU
10. Michael Crabtree, WR, SF
11. Frank Gore, RB, SF
12. Nick Foles, QB, PHI

* I took Brady as an obvious value pick, considering all three top-tier QBs went in the first round and Stafford went in the third. Needless to say, Brady's ceiling is pretty high. FV: high-end QB1

Safest Pick: Tom Brady, QB, NE - and I freakin' HATE Brady! But all's fair in love, war, and fantasy football, so I pulled the trigger on him. His worst season in five years last year, at a paltry 33 TD passes, was due largely to an inexperienced WR corps - Brady went through last year what the Panthers are this year as far as receivers go. Look for close to 40 TDs and if Gronk stays healthy, Brady's numbers could near the 50 mark again. If Gronk gets hurt, Brady's numbers should still be a good bit better than they were last season and given how QBs were going, I took the safe, productive pick here. FV: high-end QB1

Best Value Pick: Rashad Jennings - Almost said Brady again, but a couple of other QBs could possibly get sorta close fantasy-wise with a good season. At this point, Jennings looks to be "the guy" in New York and has played very well in the presason. With a better offensive line, the Giants' offense should improve and there aren't any distractions with Hakeem Nicks and his health and status this season. FV: mid to high RB2

Biggest Reach: Jordan Cameron, Michael Crabtree - A tie here I think, but with Cameron being drafted higher, I guess he wins. The Browns offense is a mess right now so I don't know what to make of him and don't want to gamble like that in the 4th round. Crabtree only had the single one thousand-yard season two seasons ago, and that was when Colin Kaepernick stormed into the starting role. Crab is his favorite receiver, but even if Kaep improves, it's a run-oriented offense and Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis will get their share of looks. All that aside, I think the Niners are going to have a down year for them. FV: TE1, WR2

Biggest Surprise Pick: Nick Foles - I'm not saying he's a bad pick here, but I don't really see his numbers approaching Brady's this year and neither QB is known for throwing interceptions. Brady's not been throwing them since Foles was in elementary school though. With the FFL GM having taken LeSean McCoy #1 overall, it means if Philly is facing a good defense (like say, the Panthers) it could make life difficult for the team trying to win that week. The good? He'll be about impossible to stop in the fantasy league the two weeks the Eagles face the Cowboys. The bad? If this FFL GM makes the playoffs, he better do it on a first-round bye or else face the Seattle Seahawks' defense week 14. FV: QB1

Round Five:

1. Kyle Rudolph, TE, MIN
2. T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND
3. Roddy White, WR, ATL
4. Michael Floyd, WR, ARI
5. Andrew Luck, QB, IND
6. Jason Witten, TE, DAL
7. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, MIN*
8. Ben Tate, RB, CLE
9, Cam Newton, QB, CAR
10. Shane Vereen, RB, NE
11. Torrey Smith, WR, BAL
12. Victor Cruz, WR, NYG

* While Patterson hasn't completely proven himself as a steady FFL producer, he WAS #1 in FP among WR the last 4 games of last year. When you add in the idea that WRs tend to improve quite a bit after their first season, I think we caught a glimpse of a possible star in the making those last 4 games. Since I draft in the middle of the round, I can't always "wait" on certain players as there's an even amount of picks on either side of me all the time and I was afraid he'd be gone by my 6th-round pick. FV: WR1 to high-end WR2

Safest Pick: Andrew Luck - again, probably not a huge value pick here, but has a pretty high FP floor with Reggie Wayne returning off of knee surgery and looking fantastic in camp. 30+ TDs is pretty certain this season for Andy, I'd think. FV: QB1

Best Value Pick: Roddy White - I always watch guys who were injured from the previous year to slide in fantasy drafts the next. While injuries are always a concern, Roddy seems to catch 1k-plus yards a year and while he probably won't have many huge games, he shouldn't have many stinkers, either. FV: WR1 to high-end WR2

Biggest Reach: Michael Floyd - Floyd's here simply because of the fantasy downside potential being a little higher than I'd like. Carson Palmer hasn't been accurate in his passing all pre-season, Andre Ellington is a reliable outlet guy with some downfield route potential, and they've got one other guy who is pretty good named Larry Fitzgerald. At least Floyd was the last of the three drafted, but I think his floor and ceilings both are a bit low for my tastes here. The real problem lies more in the QB. FV: WR2

Biggest Surprise Pick: Victor Cruz - The Giants' offensive woes aren't a secret, but they've taken steps to address it. Eli Manning is NEVER a high QB pick in fantasy leagues for a reason: He puts up more than his share of stinkers which means so will his WRs. FV: WR2

My Overall Thoughts

Two things struck me here in the first five rounds. First was the eagerness to jump on a top-tier QB in the first round when top WRs like AJ Green and Demaryius Thomas were around, not to mention Beast Mode. I suppose if you're going for raw FP, that's who you draft, but is Peyton going to toss 55 more TDs? Not likely, especially with an improved running game and defense. That said, I knew one or two might go before I picked in the second round, and I was thinking the odd man out might be Brees. Since I like his consistency and added rookie weapon in Brandin Cooks, with a developing second-year deep threat in Kenny Stills, I was going to take Drew if he was available in the second. No such luck, so I waited.

The other thing was the willingness of people to draft tight ends in places where a plethora of WRs available would seem to have a higher FP potential, while the drop-off in the subsequent levels of tight ends seems less. Tight ends not named Graham or Gronk don't put up WR numbers, and of those that did last year their situations got worse. Peyton won't have another monster season - just a Mini-Him one - so Julius Thomas is likely going to suffer a bit. Josh Gordon is gone for the year in Cleveland, so Jordan Cameron's stats are in doubt. Vernon Davis is but one option on a running team - and a team that is losing lots of very good players, I might add.

My Own Strategy

First Round:

I just don't think taking TEs high are worth it this year other than Gronk and Graham. Since at 7th I was in perfect position for Graham to fall to me, I realized I'll get consistently good production from that position where the vast majority of teams will not, he represents a large draft "margin of victory" across the board for me in the first round and in a "roundabout" way, represents an added value for me. 
Grade: A+

Second Round:

I was hoping to get Brees or Rodgers in the middle of the second round, but they were all gone. I decided on Foster because he'll be the main man in an offense struggling to find themselves in the passing game but are taking steps to help that as I speak - they just signed Ryan Mallett. Either way, with Ben Tate in Cleveland and the ability to catch the football, Foster should be center stage for the offense so he'll get his looks.
Grade: B

Third Round:

I got Antonio Brown simply because of his production. He showed everyone last year why they don't miss Mike Wallace in Pittsburgh. He's Big Ben's favorite target in Steeltown and should produce pretty close to similar numbers this year, although a hair lower in yards. Because of my draft plan and projected bye week conflicts, I couldn't consider Keenan Allen.
Grade: B+

Fourth Round:

...drafting Tom Brady here, who has the same bye week as both Keenan Allen and Phillip Rivers would affect my plans for the back end of the draft, I knew, but took the value and FP. I have Brady ahead of Stafford in terms of this draft, and Stafford's being picked a half round before screamed at me that it's either Brady now or Rivers in the 9th or so, and I had given up Allen for Brown previously with this scenario in mind. Once more with feeling - if Gronk is healthy or not, Brady's numbers will be markedly better than those he put up last season. Now I know I got a top-2 for sure TE and a likely top-5 QB in four rounds, so things are going nicely despite having to adjust in the second round. He'd have been long gone by the fifth round and I had gambled in the third in getting Brown that Brady would still fall to me here. He did.
Grade: A+

Fifth Round:

Here's where I was a little stuck between untested production over time vs. potential. As I said, WR Cordarrelle Patterson was tops at his position in FP the final 4 games of last year, and WRs generally hop in production after their rookie season. That's what I'm banking on here, plus he can return kicks or punts for TDs as he also proved last year. I can't say that I was sold on any of the remaining RBs, including Ben Tate because of nagging injuries in his past, so I got Patterson right here. He's neither the safest pick of the round nor the best value, but I felt he was the pick with the highest potential.
Grade: B+

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