In the world of spies, they mock what they don't understand. In the world of fantasy, we want to understand, so we mock.
Truth be told, this 220-pick exercise wasn't really a mock — it's a real thing. I assembled 10 of my flatliner roto friends (industry and non-industry folks included) and we're all standing behind our teams. While we won't do any maintenance to the rosters we drafted Tuesday night, we are keeping score and we are playing for a financial stake. If you can't go full out, why go at all?
We'll use best-ball scoring to determine the winners; everyone will have their best theoretical score assigned to them after each go-round. It's a total-points grab, there are no head-to-head games. We're using the final nine segments of the season, Week 17 included. Each owner drafted with this starting structure in mind: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 PK, 1 D/ST, and 1 Flex (R/W/T). Touchdown passes are worth four points, we're using one-point PPR, and the defenses also get bonus points low points against.
There's one other wrench thrown into the mix: we're using Team Quarterbacks and Team Kickers in lieu of the singular players, just to cover against injuries (since this is a non-maintenance league and all). It doesn't really matter at the top of the positions (when you take Denver QB, you're obviously taking Peyton Manning), but maybe it provides some security to a club that wants to try Redskins QB (injury risk) or Eagles QB (benching risk). I subbed in the name of the kickers just to make the piece read easier; I kept the Team QB designations alone.
The draft software we used Tuesday still had the players listed in August draft order; maybe that affected a few picks, here and there. You decide. I'll also admit my main goal was to draft expediently and keep things going smoothly; I didn't go into heavy deliberations on any selection. Don't be taken aback if you see a few picks that seem to go against earlier Shuffles or public comments; that's the nature of the beast.
Enough preamble. Let's do this thing. I'll add comments by round, and some of the mockers will add their takes at the very bottom.
Meet the Mockers
-- Industry Peeps: Andrew Martinez, Chris Liss, Dalton Del Don, Kevin C. Payne, Erin Skelley, Mark Stopa, yours truly
-- Private Roto Legends: Pete Zeigler, Wally Shippe, Larry King, Stephen Debacco
1.01 Martinez: Arian Foster, RB
1.02 Liss: Ray Rice, RB
1.03 Del Don: Adrian Peterson, RB
1.04 Pianow: LeSean McCoy, RB
1.05 Payne: A.J. Green, WR
1.06 Skelley: Victor Cruz, WR
1.07 Zeigler: Saints QB
1.08 Shippe: Demaryius Thomas, WR
1.09 Kinger: Packers QB
1.10 Debacco: Trent Richardson, RB
1.11 Stopa: Jimmy Graham, TE
The first four picks feel like consensus chalk for the moment. I still would have taken McCoy over Peterson because of the schedule (easier opponents, one additional game), but given Peterson's beastly work this year, I can't critique anyone who selects him. … An elite quarterback generally buys you an extra roster spot in this sort of best-ball exercise, because you won't need depth at that position. You can draft just two quarterbacks and do well; the teams without stars will likely feel the need to grab at least three. … Imagine how good Green might be if he were operating with an elite quarterback and a wide-open offense. I have no problem with the New World Order at wideout here, Green-Cruz-Thomas. The Broncos passing game looks unstoppable right now.
2.01 Stopa: Rob Gronkowski, TE
2.02 Debacco: Darren McFadden, RB
2.03 Kinger: Matt Forte, RB
2.04 Shippe: Calvin Johnson, WR
2.05 Zeigler: C.J. Spiller, RB
2.06 Skelley: Falcons QB
2.07 Payne: Wes Welker, WR
2.08 Pianow: Roddy White, WR
2.09 Del Don: Percy Harvin, WR
2.10 Liss: Doug Martin, RB
2.11 Martinez: Brandon Marshall, WR
Stopa is happy to pay Round 2 money on Gronk, and he obviously felt the dropoff at tight end justified a position-scarcity play. The second round seems to have more question marks than usual, however. Can McFadden figure out the zone-blocking scheme, and stay healthy? What's keeping Megatron down these days? Can Spiller shove Jackson out of the way in Buffalo? What happens to Welker's production when all the Patriots are healthy?
3.01 Martinez: Broncos QB
3.02 Liss: Julio Jones, WR
3.03 Del Don: Reggie Wayne, WR
3.04 Pianow: Marques Colston, WR
3.05 Payne: Darren Sproles, RB
3.06 Skelley: Marshawn Lynch, RB
3.07 Zeigler: Stevan Ridley, RB
3.08 Shippe: Jamaal Charles, RB
3.09 Kinger: Chris Johnson, RB
3.10 Debacco: Hakeem Nicks, WR
3.11 Stopa: Redskins QB
The pass-catching chops of Sproles give him the nod here over a number of established backs you might prefer in standard formats. Wasn't it more fun in the summer when Manning and Wayne didn't cost very much? Workload concerns for Ridley and Charles pushed them into the 29-30 pocket; they could look like ridiculous steals when the season is over.
4.01 Stopa: Patriots QB
4.02 Debacco: Dez Bryant, WR
4.03 Kinger: Eric Decker, WR
4.04 Shippe: Vincent Jackson, WR
4.05 Zeigler: Larry Fitzgerald, WR
4.06 Skelley: Mike Wallace, WR
4.07 Payne: Ryan Mathews, RB
4.08 Pianow: Alfred Morris, RB
4.09 Del Don: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
4.10 Liss: Jordy Nelson, WR
4.11 Martinez: Tony Gonzalez, TE
Although we need at least five starters at RB/WR, Team Stopa has opted to stock up at quarterback and tight end, worry about everything else later. The Team QB rules partially insure the Griffin pick, though the Redskins offense would probably be in the trash if Rex Grossman had to play again. I'm probably as much of a Mathews skeptic as you'll find but he looks like a steal at 4.07.
5.01 Martinez: Frank Gore, RB
5.02 Liss: Jason Witten, TE
5.03 Del Don: Miles Austin, WR
5.04 Pianow: Willis McGahee, RB
5.05 Payne: Rashad Jennings, RB
5.06 Skelley: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB
5.07 Zeigler: Shonn Greene, RB
5.08 Shippe: Reggie Bush, RB
5.09 Kinger: Andre Johnson, WR
5.10 Debacco: Steve Smith, WR
5.11 Stopa: Fred Jackson, RB
The league-wide depth at running back is underscored in this segment; although there are no sure things this late, the backs flying off the board aren't that bad. I get the idea the industry and market is overreacting to Reggie Bush's shared time in New Jersey; with the game out of hand, the Dolphins didn't have to push the envelope. His schedule to come is delicious. Witten reclaims his spot as a set-and-forget tight end, fresh off an 18-catch demolition of Liss's beloved Giants.
6.01 Stopa: DeMarco Murray, RB
6.02 Debacco: Lions QB
6.03 Kinger: Aaron Hernandez, TE
6.04 Shippe: Owen Daniels, TE
6.05 Zeigler: Antonio Brown, WR
6.06 Skelley: Heath Miller, TE
6.07 Payne: Giants QB
6.08 Pianow: Denarius Moore, WR
6.09 Del Don: Jonathan Stewart, RB
6.10 Liss: Jeremy Maclin, WR
6.11 Martinez: Randall Cobb, WR
Jackson (a time-share guy) and Murray (a hurt guy) are Stopa's first two options in the backfield. I need to look into a prop on this. I would have taken Daniels over Hernandez, with the bye out of the way and no injury to worry about. But obviously the Patriots passing game will bring volume to the equation; that's not the case in Houston. Maclin is an interesting "this year's bum" pick; Philly's schedule is chummy in the second half.
7.01 Martinez: Brandon Lloyd, WR
7.02 Liss: Michael Turner, RB
7.03 Del Don: James Jones, WR
7.04 Pianow: Torrey Smith, WR
7.05 Payne: Lance Moore, WR
7.06 Skelley: Steven Jackson, RB
7.07 Zeigler: Pierre Garcon, WR
7.08 Shippe: Antonio Gates, TE
7.09 Kinger: Dwayne Bowe, WR
7.10 Debacco: Mikel Leshoure, RB
7.11 Stopa: DeSean Jackson, WR
Jones could be a steal here if the elite Green Bay wideouts can't heal up quickly. Bowe's fantasy value could perk up a bit if Matt Cassel solidified the QB job. For all of Cassel's fleas, he'll take chances downfield; Brady Quinn won't.
8.01 Stopa: Danny Amendola, WR
8.02 Debacco: Steve Johnson, WR
8.03 Kinger: Mike Williams, WR
8.04 Shippe: Steelers QB
8.05 Zeigler: Jonathan Dwyer, RB
8.06 Skelley: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
8.07 Payne: Vernon Davis, TE
8.08 Pianow: Cowboys QB
8.09 Del Don: Panthers QB
8.10 Liss: Kenny Britt, WR
8.11 Martinez: Titus Young, WR
Amendola's an interesting gambit, coming off an injury and presumably ready for Week 10. There's nothing exciting about Johnson's game, but he's a solid depth play at this juncture. Davis is having an outstanding year blocking in-line, but he hasn't been used much in the passing game of late. Boom-or-bust players like Britt are probably more welcome in this format, given that you don't have to guess when the next big game is coming.
9.01 Martinez: Michael Crabtree, WR
9.02 Liss: Colts QB
9.03 Del Don: Eagles QB
9.04 Pianow: Brian Hartline, WR
9.05 Payne: Cecil Shorts, WR
9.06 Skelley: Alex Green, RB
9.07 Zeigler: Anquan Boldin, WR
9.08 Shippe: Pierre Thomas, RB
9.09 Kinger: Brandon LaFell, WR
9.10 Debacco: Jeremy Kerley, WR
9.11 Stopa: Donald Brown, RB
Shorts is the type of player who is often forgotten about in this sort of assignment — especially working off old lists — but he went at market (if not ahead of market) here. Green hasn't showed much in the last two weeks, though Mike McCarthy keeps feeding him the ball. I love LaFell's potential if he can stay healthy; sadly, he's coming off a concussion and no sure thing for Week 9.
10.01 Stopa: Malcom Floyd, WR
10.02 Debacco: Dustin Keller, TE
10.03 Kinger: Buccaneers QB
10.04 Shippe: Andre Roberts, WR
10.05 Zeigler: Kyle Rudolph, TE
10.06 Skelley: Texans QB
10.07 Payne: Ravens QB
10.08 Pianow: Daryl Richardson, RB
10.09 Del Don: Sidney Rice, WR
10.10 Liss: Bengals QB
10.11 Martinez: 49ers D/ST
Keller and Roberts aren't sexy picks, but their quarterbacks trust them and they'll collect regular targets. Rudolph's goal-line work keeps him relevant, but the Vikings haven't been using him much between the 20s.
11.01 Martinez: Bears D/ST
11.02 Liss: Santana Moss, WR
11.03 Del Don: Raiders QB
11.04 Pianow: Josh Gordon, WR
11.05 Payne: Brandon Pettigrew, TE
11.06 Skelley: Jermaine Gresham, TE
11.07 Zeigler: Davone Bess, WR
11.08 Shippe: Bills QB
11.09 Kinger: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB
11.10 Debacco: LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB
11.11 Stopa: Nate Washington, WR
Martinez goes with a defensive double-down, grabbing the Niners and Bears back to back. One plain, one with Peanut. Too early, or crazy like a fox? I'll let you decide. Gresham and Pettigrew are borderline starters in standard leagues, but they're nice players here where depth is so important. Moss has shown some rejuvenation of late, standing out among Washington's crummy group of receivers.
12.01 Stopa: Kendall Wright, WR
12.02 Debacco: Chargers QB
12.03 Kinger: Brent Celek, TE
12.04 Shippe: Michael Bush, RB
12.05 Zeigler: Martellus Bennett, TE
12.06 Skelley: Chris Givens, WR
12.07 Payne: Felix Jones, RB
12.08 Pianow: Kendall Hunter, RB
12.09 Del Don: Jermichael Finley, TE
12.10 Liss: Greg Olsen, TE
12.11 Martinez: Andre Brown, RB
The high-upside backup backs will get drained in this exercise, with a lot of them flying off the board here. See anyone you like? Bennett could be as good as the tight ends who went 1-2 rounds earlier. I'm promised myself I wouldn't go off on a Finley rant today, so let's just move on.
13.01 Martinez: Ben Tate, RB
13.02 Liss: Vick Ballard, RB
13.03 Del Don: DeAngelo Williams, RB
13.04 Pianow: Dennis Pitta, TE
13.05 Payne: Stephen Hill, WR
13.06 Skelley: Andrew Hawkins, WR
13.07 Zeigler: Kevin Walter, WR
13.08 Shippe: Golden Tate, WR
13.09 Kinger: Texans D/ST
13.10 Debacco: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB
13.11 Stopa: Daniel Thomas, RB
Hawkins looked like a major playmaker in the opening month, but there hasn't been much joystick mode of late. I'm surprised the Bengals don't give him more snaps. Hill has the speed and size to make splash plays, but he's leaving plays on the field every week. Maybe something will click for him after the bye.
14.01 Stopa: Ronnie Hillman, RB
14.02 Debacco: Mike Goodson, RB
14.03 Kinger: Shane Vereen, RB
14.04 Shippe: Donnie Avery, WR
14.05 Zeigler: Ravens D/ST
14.06 Skelley: Giants D/ST
14.07 Payne: Devery Henderson, WR
14.08 Pianow: Broncos D/ST
14.09 Del Don: Jacob Tamme, TE
14.10 Liss: Rashard Mendenhall, RB
14.11 Martinez: Greg Jennings, WR
Goodson is one of my favorite spec plays, so I wasn't thrilled to see him snapped up ahead of me. I'll be surprised if Jennings does much down the stretch, but there's not much risk this late. Hillman has been impressive in recent weeks.
15.01 Martinez: Joique Bell, RB
15.02 Liss: Ryan Broyles, WR
15.03 Del Don: Beanie Wells, RB
15.04 Pianow: Scott Chandler, TE
15.05 Payne: Greg Little, WR
15.06 Skelley: Patriots D/ST
15.07 Zeigler: TY Hilton, WR
15.08 Shippe: Seahawks D/ST
15.09 Kinger: Dexter McCluster, WR
15.10 Debacco: Packers D/ST
15.11 Stopa: Bears QB
I like all the defenses in this segment; the Packers and Patriots will be favored routinely in the second half (that's a good path to defensive goodies), and Seattle still has five home games remaining. McCluster could be a sneaky PPR find down the stretch, though he's only WR-eligible in this format.
16.01 Stopa: Jets D/ST
16.02 Debacco: Jared Cook, TE
16.03 Kinger: Stephen Gostkowski, PK
16.04 Shippe: Ronnie Brown, RB
16.05 Zeigler: Danny Woodhead, RB
16.06 Skelley: James Starks, RB
16.07 Payne: Sebastian Janikowski, PK
16.08 Pianow: Falcons D/ST
16.09 Del Don: Steelers D/ST
16.10 Liss: Dolphins D/ST
16.11 Martinez: Brandon Myers, TE
Brown continues to steal third-down snaps in San Diego, significant for PPR players. He caught seven passes for 85 yards in the Cleveland loss. Myers doesn't have a lot of vertical explosion, but he'll catch anything on target.
17.01 Martinez: Vikings QB
17.02 Liss: Cardinals D/ST
17.03 Del Don: Eagles D/ST
17.04 Pianow: David Akers, PK
17.05 Payne: Chargers D/ST
17.06 Skelley: Justin Blackmon, WR
17.07 Zeigler: Lions D/ST
17.08 Shippe: Cowboys D/ST
17.09 Kinger: Peyton Hillis, RB
17.10 Debacco: Jerome Simpson, WR
17.11 Stopa: Matt Bryant, PK
Blackmon has looked lost through the opening two months, but maybe someone in Jacksonville will whisper the right words to him. The Vikings QBs have some juice because the skill players are so good; Christian Ponder is capable of posting decent numbers on some weeks even without playing well.
18.01 Stopa: Shayne Graham, PK
18.02 Debacco: Greg Zuerlein, PK
18.03 Kinger: Bills D/ST
18.04 Shippe: Lawrence Tyner, PK
18.05 Zeigler: Blair Walsh, PK
18.06 Skelley: Justin Tucker, PK
18.07 Payne: Browns D/ST
18.08 Pianow: Titans QB
18.09 Del Don: Mason Crosby, PK
18.10 Liss: Jason Hanson, PK
18.11 Martinez: Matt Prater, PK
Eight kickers went in this round, so there's no need for a deep comment. I needed quarterback depth because I missed the stars at the position; while I don't think a lot about Hasselbeck or Locker (off an injury) right now, at least Tennessee has interesting targets to throw to.
19.01 Martinez: Garrett Hartley, PK
19.02 Liss: Seahawks QB
19.03 Del Don: Shaun Suisham, PK
19.04 Pianow: 49ers QB
19.05 Payne: Mark Ingram, RB
19.06 Skelley: Robert Turbin, RB
19.07 Zeigler: Jets QB
19.08 Shippe: Dan Bailey, PK
19.09 Kinger: Rueben Randle, WR
19.10 Debacco: Vikings D/ST
19.11 Stopa: Josh Morgan, WR
It's a shame the Seahawks don't have a dominant and dynamic wideout to help Russell Wilson along. He's played very well for the last few weeks. Turbin probably becomes a Top 15-20 back immediately if anything happens to Lynch. I'm surprised the rookie lasted this long.
20.01 Stopa: Bengals D/ST
20.02 Debacco: Robbie Gould, PK
20.03 Kinger: Alex Henery, PK
20.04 Shippe: Browns QB
20.05 Zeigler: Rob Bironas, PK
20.06 Skelley: Rams QB
20.07 Payne: Adam Vinatieri, PK
20.08 Pianow: Dan Carpenter, PK
20.09 Del Don: Montario Hardesty, RB
20.10 Liss: Connor Barth, PK
20.11 Martinez: Toby Gerhart, RB
I considered Hardesty for a few rounds but eventually went in other directions. See the plausible upside here: Richardson already has physical issues, and the Browns offensive line has been competent all season.
Now we get a parting shot from some of the mockers, in their own words:
-- Andrew Martinez: The player I was targeting the most was Peyton Manning as I feel like the Broncos have one of the easiest schedules in the 2nd half of the season. I also thought it was very important to get guys who could have clear paths to heavy workloads, if they're healthy and the starting back in front of them is not (ie Ben Tate, Andre Brown, and Toby Gerhart)... we're swinging for the fences here. And finally, if I get one good week from Greg Jennings, drafting him at pick 154 was totally worth it and the steal of the draft.
-- Kevin C. Payne: I really went wide receiver heavy, this being a full-point PPR league. I also believe in these formats that you have to draft at least two tight ends, two team quarterbacks, two team kickers and two team defenses. After that it's up to an owner's preference although I might advocate going at least three tight ends (they weren't team, rather individuals) considering the amount of injuries at the position. Lastly, I'd encourage anyone who hasn't tried this format to give it a shot, especially if your "regular" team is out of the running.
-- Larry King: Stopa made statement by grabbing pairs (Graham, Gronk), (Was TMQB, NE TMQB), in the first four picks even though only 2 of those picks can get you points in a week. My first 7 picks could all play together which I like (Rodgers, Forte, CJ, Decker, Andre Johnson, Hernandez, Bowe). Rodgers after Brees, I won't argue with getting Rodgers at 9. Decker as my first WR would NEVER have happened if this was not a mid-season. As it is, that is probably going to be my death in PPR League (Decker, Bowe, Johnson as starting 3).
One last note, I tried to take HR hitters. In this case since league is best player, CJ has value if he goes off and then does not. Rodgers can put up insane numbers at any time. Jacquizz Rodgers, Vereen, McCluster, Aaron Hernandez were all of that type that can put up huge points and then disappear.
I should name my team Wild West - Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans
-- Scott Pianowski: I'm deep at the RB/WR spots, which sounds good to me since we're playing five or six of them every week. It took me a while to come around on McGahee, but right now I think he might be the most underrated skill player in football. I would have preferred better quarterbacks than Romo and two scrubs, but you can't have everything. The tight end position seems to muddle together after a few big names; if you're not going to take premium guys, just wait it out.
-- Erin Skelley: I felt lucky to get the sixth draft position. I wanted a top receiver, and with running backs typically drafted first, I knew I wouldn't be reaching. I'm happy I landed Victor Cruz, and not worried about his paltry showing against the Cowboys -- two catches for 23 yards. He shares the lead league in TDs (7) and is sixth in total yards (650). Besides, he was probably just nervous about the mid-season fantasy draft.
I'm putting a lot of eggs in Roethlisberger's basket, drafting both Mike Wallace and Heath Miller. Both players have been surprises this year -- of course, especially Miller. He's Ben's favorite red zone target; and in just seven games, he already has more scores (6) than the past two seasons combined. Now imagine he does that for a full season wearing those ridiculous striped outfits.
I wanted a strong QB (don't we all?) so I grabbed Matt Ryan in the second round, but there was a lot of talent still on the bench, even 3-4 rounds later. I definitely sacrificed the quality of my running backs to get the MVP contender.
-- Mark Stopa: Quarterbacks outscore everyone by a wide sum, so I want 25 points from that position every week. And the elite tight ends blow away the others at the position - they're basically like another good WR. Let's just hope my RBs and WRs can hang. Maybe I'll get lucky and profit on someone like Daniel Thomas or Ronnie Hillman.