This week marked one of the great moments on the fantasy football calendar, the FFPC Pros vs. Joes contest. Every draft has six pros (fantasy football writers/analysts) and Joes (people who have signed up for the FFPC Main Event), and we battle it out in a best-ball league with an FFPC Main Event entry on the line. I was fortunate enough to be invited by Darren Armani (of FantasyMojo.com) nine years ago and have won my division three times, including last year (article about my main event team to come!), so I focus on this draft as much as any I do. The difficult part of that is this is usually the first draft of the season, a reveal of true ADP range and prevailing feelings about players/situations when our sense of what the hive mind thinks is still fuzzy. Not to mention being in drafts that include Evan Silva, Pat Thorman, Rich Hribar, John Paulsen, Bob Harris, and too many other sharps to list here. The new slim format makes every roster construction suboptimal since we can’t build in the endless depth the old 28-round format created.
- 12 teams, 18 rounds
- 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 2 FLEX count every week
- PPR with 1.5 PPR for tight ends
A Look Back
The best place to start is a look at my 2020 league winner, from the 11-hole:
QB: Russell Wilson (8.2), Aaron Rodgers (14.2), Kirk Cousins (16.2)
RB: Nick Chubb (2.2), David Montgomery (5.11), Duke Johnson Jr (9.11), Kerryon Johnson (10.2), Nyheim Hines (11.11),
WR: Adam Thielen (4.2), Tyler Lockett (6.2), Brandin Cooks (7.11), Robby Anderson (13.11), Corey Davis (15.11), Randall Cobb (17.11), Larry Fitzgerald (18.2)
TE: George Kittle (1.11), Zach Ertz (3.11), Irv Smith (12.2)
Not that impressive, eh? A few things stand out:
- You can shank an early pick (Ertz)
- You can weather absences from top picks (Chubb, Kittle)
- An overachieving running back or two is essential (Hines, Montgomery)
- Don’t fear a minimal wide receiver build (Anderson, Davis)
- Depth is IMPORTANT
Unlike a best ball draft with deeper rosters, with only 18 roster spots, you have to be more aware of how every roster spot is used and building in “firewall” players to keep your season from slipping away if your core players miss time. Every single player I drafted scored in my lineup at least once. Getting good contributions from the second half of your draft is as important, or possibly even more important than avoiding early donkey picks.
Irv Smith might have seemed like a luxury item when I took two tight ends in the first three rounds, but he saved my season when Kittle went down and Ertz fizzled. Nyheim Hines was my last running back pick, but he saved my season when Chubb missed time and Kerryon and Duke Johnson Jr fizzled. Going in, you know that you have to sacrifice upside somewhere, and wide receiver is always the easiest position to stomach that proposition. I focused on high weekly upside picks first (Thielen, Lockett, Cooks) and took advantage of receivers with guaranteed opportunity late (Anderson, Davis).
Looking back, this team feels like it was more lucky than good, so what can we take forward to this year?
- In a tight-end premium format, you should build in a high weekly ceiling at the position with at least one early pick
- Early running backs are less reliable than early wide receivers, but late wide receivers are a lot more likely to bear fruit than late running backs, and you only get so many darts to throw with slim rosters, so you’re going to have to use at least two of your first five picks on running back and have a plan for your bench
- Don’t take a wide receiver until the fourth round
- Stacking your #1 quarterback with a top wide receiver from his team increases weekly upside
This Year's Draft
Here’s how my team turned out from the five-hole:
QB: Tom Brady (8.08), Ryan Fitzpatrick (15.05), Ben Roethlisberger (16.08)
RB: Joe Mixon (2.08), J.K. Dobbins (3.05), Gus Edwards (9.05), J.D. McKissic (12.05), James White (14.05)
WR: Robert Woods (4.08), Chris Godwin (5.05), Robby Anderson (6.08), Tyler Boyd (7.05), Darnell Mooney (10.08), Parris Campbell (13.05), Tyrell Williams (17.05)
TE: Darren Waller (1.05), Blake Jarwin (11.05), Tyler Conklin (18.08)
What Was I Thinking?
Round 1: If Derrick Henry had fallen to 1.05, it might have given me more pause, but choosing Waller over a running back wasn’t difficult. His arrow is pointing up coming out of last year, and he should be everyone’s clear TE2 that will close some of the gap between him and Travis Kelce. I didn’t expect George Kittle to fall to 2.08, or Kyle Pitts to 3.05, or T.J. Hockenson to 4.8, and I wanted to be able to post a top-three score at tight end, feeling much more confident in my ability to find production later at wide receiver than at tight end. I expected to go RB/RB/WR on my next three picks with Waller locked in but would be open to taking a second tight end early if one of those names fell to decrease the number of teams that could hang with my tight end scoring by one while giving me a chance at top flex scoring in the process.
Round 2: Kittle almost made it back to me, but since he didn’t, I was looking at Joe Mixon, Najee Harris, and Aaron Jones to be my RB1. All three have risk, with Jones carrying the Aaron Rodgers holdout burden (and A.J. Dillon potentially more work than we’d like), Harris the rookie and Steelers offensive line unknowns, and Mixon coming into 2021 with a foot injury that cost him 10 games and wasn’t surgically corrected. Mixon’s situation is getting better and better, and I also thought I could get his backup (Samaje Perine) in the last round to hedge his injury risk.
Round 4: It was time to take my WR1. The top choices left were the Buccaneers' top two, the Rams' top two, the Bengals top two, and Julio Jones. I ruled out the Buccaneers, hoping that Chris Godwin would fall to 5.05. Julio Jones has too much breakdown risk to tolerate, although, in the fourth, the upside almost justifies it. I didn’t want to overload on Bengals early, especially knowing that I was targeting Tyler Boyd later. That left the Rams duo. I believe in Woods more than Kupp in both consistency and big plays, so Woods it was.
Round 5: I got lucky, and Godwin fell (if I were true to my rankings, he would have been the pick at 4.08). Godwin and Brady started hooking up as the season went on, and I expect Godwin to be the leading Tampa receiver despite a crowded passing game. I considered Lamar Jackson here but felt good about taking three quarterbacks, taking the first outside of the first eight rounds, and harvesting ceiling games. With Woods and Godwin in tow, Stafford and Brady were both viable QB1s in my three-man committee, and both should be available in the eighth or later.
Round 6: Trey Sermon was a consideration here as an upside running back pick, and maybe I should have taken him in hindsight, but Robby Anderson getting back in the deep ball game with Sam Darnold while still carrying over strong weekly volume from last year was too good to pass up as my WR3. Tyler Higbee was a consideration to thin the TE1 pool and get a strong flex.
Round 7: Tyler Boyd was always my target here as a high floor wide receiver to provide strong flex weeks or both any byes/injuries from my top three. With four strong wide receiver options providing a high weekly floor and ceiling, I could focus on weekly upside with my later wide receiver picks and probably cap the number I carried at seven, creating the give to roster three tight ends and three quarterbacks.
Round 8: Seeing Ryan Tannehill go right before my pick and knowing that two teams without a quarterback would get to pick twice before my next pick made quarterback the call here. It was a coinflip between Brady and Stafford, and if I had known Cam Akers was going down, I might have taken Stafford.
Round 9: Gus Edwards would be a target here even if I didn’t take Dobbins. Edwards often scores when Dobbins doesn’t, and sometimes even when he does. This gave me some injury protection on Dobbins while still providing flex/bye/injury usefulness. As long as Edwards scores at least six touchdowns again this year, I’ll be satisfied with this pick.
Round 10: Running back wasn’t a consideration here because I felt good about the supply of receiving backs/high upside backups lasting until the 14th round, and I only planned on taking two. No one stood out anyway. Quarterback wasn’t considered because I expected to take three and was waiting on Ryan Fitzpatrick as my #2. Tight end wasn’t a consideration because I planned on taking Blake Jarwin with my next pick. That left wide receiver by process of elimination. I went with Mooney, hoping that he will be reeling in deep scores from Justin Fields sooner than later.
Round 11: This pick was always ticketed to be Jarwin, who has top-six to -eight tight end upside if he gets the majority of tight end targets in Dallas. He will, as long as he stays healthy.
Round 12: I was hoping for Nyheim Hines or Jamaal Williams, but both went before my pick. That left McKissic, who won’t get the crazy volume he had with the dink and dunk Washington quarterbacks last year but should still get provide a reasonable 5- to 6-point floor most weeks and mix in a few big plays, touchdowns, and reception spike weeks to protect me from a Mixon injury and cover byes.
Round 13: Wide receiver value was strong here with Emmanuel Sanders and Marvin Jones Jr on the board, but I decided to swing for the fences with Parris Campbell, who I still believe in. There’s not really a hit to my lineup if he gets hurt again. I felt okay passing on running back, knowing that I would take one of Giovani Bernard and James White at my next pick.
Round 14: Keep White in your back pocket in best-ball drafts. He won’t compete with Rex Burkhead for passing down snaps and targets this year and should provide at least three or four touchdowns with some spike reception weeks. With White and McKissic on my bench, I felt good about my running back group. Everyone is vulnerable to injuries with the short benches and an always scarce supply of running back points. Still, I liked my chances of getting through a rough stretch, knowing that McKissic and White were less likely to leave me high and dry when I was counting on them because of bye/injury than the high upside backups who were more likely to make your season, but could also give you a one or a two when you needed them to come through if the starter stayed healthy.
Round 15: Time for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He and Brady have the same bye, which was inconvenient, but Fitzpatrick presented the highest weekly ceiling by far. This basically locked me into taking Sam Darnold, Zach Wilson, or Ben Roethlisberger at my next pick.
Round 16: Wilson would have been fine, but Roethlisberger was the pick here. He still had three games with 300+ yards and three or more passing scores last year, and he’ll be a safety backup to Brady if Fitzpatrick gets benched.
Round 17: I was set to take O.J. Howard here as my TE3 to add to the Tampa stack, but he went at 17.04. Williams is set to be the Lions' #1 receiver and has a big play profile, so he was acceptable as a pure value pick.