The Yahoo! Friends and Family League returned for its ninth season last week when the cast and crew of Yahoo! fantasy convened with six of its closest friends for the draft selection process.In addition to yours truly, the "Family" consisted of 2011 champion Andy Behrens (in all his smugness), Brad Evans, Scott Pianowski, Yahoo! Sports Senior Writer Jason Cole and former "Friend" Dalton Del Don, who we acquired from Rotowire for two fantasy experts to be named later. Behrens' title last season was the fifth championship for the "Family" in the seven seasons of F&F divisional play. Hoping to stem the losing tide for the "Friends" side were the usual suspects, Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson of Rotowire, along with Michael Salfino of the Wall Street Journal. FantasyGuru.com was also once again represented, but Joe Dolan filled in for long-standing F&F member John Hansen because of a scheduling conflict. Making his F&F debut was Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus. And jumping from the "Family" to the "Friends" was Michael Gehlken, our former F&F "average Joe" representative who has proven to be no ordinary fantasy foe. Gehlken, who has played in three straight F&F championship games, now covers the Chargers beat for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Unfortunately, a draft-day mix up landed him on auto-draft this year, so making it to a fourth straight title game is going to take a minor miracle (Gehlken details his bailout plans below) • Here is a complete rundown of the Y! Friends and Family League draft results. As has been the case for the past several years, after the draft I asked each participant two specific questions about their draft and also to give their choice for SOD (steal of the draft) and ROD (reach of the draft). And, not to be left out, I had colleague Andy Behrens fire a couple questions my way. Now, I give you the experts, in their own words …
Q: Entering the draft, you knew you'd have pick No. 6, the McFadden spot. Please discuss your thinking there. You could have gone elite QB (Brees, Brady), you could have taken an elite tight end, or you could have gone with Chris Johnson. What led you to DMC? And how did that selection affect later draft picks, if at all? A: With only 12 starting QBs in this league, I figured I'd come out just fine at QB if I went a different direction off the top, and with Tony Romo and Peyton Manning, I think I'm more than fine there. I decided to go Run-DMC because if he stays healthy, he was the only RB left (well, maybe Ryan Mathews, too) that I think could realistically challenge for top fantasy production at the position – only Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy have averaged more fantasy PPG the past two seasons. Oakland has a very good rushing system in place, and the plan is to lean heavily on McFadden, and that includes goal-line carries this season with Michael Bush out of the mix. I didn't even consider Chris Johnson, frankly. I owned him last season and I just can't shake the memory of that miserable experience. Q: In Round 2 (of a PPR draft), you went with Beast Mode ahead of Richardson, Julio, Green, Sproles and various others. Obviously you're not too concerned with the repeatability of Lynch's numbers. Give us a projection, please … A: Again, this is the case of a high-volume back in a strong run system. Beast-Mode exploited that system with a TD in 11 straight games. He finished as the No. 5 fantasy back. And that was despite the fact that the offensive line was horrible in September as it dealt with injuries and picking up Tom Cable's blocking schemes. Once they finally gelled, Beast-Mode exploded. I expect the Seahawks to, literally, hit the ground running from the get-go in '12. Projection? I'll throw out 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 14 TDs. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: Willis McGahee in Round 7 (pick No. 79) was a pretty sweet haul for Joe Dolan. He was a 1,200-yard back last season and he's the clear featured back for an offense that should be much improved under Peyton Manning's guidance. ROD: Round 7 is also where I see the biggest reaches, and they both involve Washington running backs (Evan Royster and Roy Helu). There's no way I'd bother with Mike Shanahan's backfield mess when a guy like Ryan Williams was still sitting there. Evans looked to cover for his Royster pick by adding Alfred Morris after the draft. But having to use two roster spots when you can only have four players on the bench is tough, especially when you still don't have a guarantee that you own the eventual Redskins No. 1 RB. Better get Steve Slaton, too, Big Noise.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy – Andy Behrens (Previous F&F finishes: 1st in '11; 14th in '10; 4th in '09; 4th in '08; 4th in '07)
Q: I'm curious why, after taking Matt Ryan in Round 5, you decide to select Jay Cutler in Round 10? In this league, you took your backup QB before a couple owners took their first QB. A: I think Cutler's set-up is terrific this season (see the Chicago Juggernaut Index for details), and I had no interest in handing some other owner a high-upside QB at a low price. Maybe Cutler will become a trade chip for me, or perhaps Ryan will find his way onto the block. Not sure. But I'll have options available to me when the quarterback injuries begin to pile up. Plus I may actually start Cutler in Week 1, in a home match-up with Indy. Q: You took a couple WRs early (Hakeem Nicks and Percy Harvin), but just two more the rest of the way (Mike Williams and Kendall Wright). Any concerns about your WR depth and what are your expectations for Williams and Wright? A: Nope, no worries. My receivers are a strength, not a concern. We're only required to start two wideouts in this league, and I've got a pair of guys who could easily finish as top-10 players at the position. Harvin continues to be ridiculously undervalued in drafts — he finished as the No. 7 scorer among all receivers last year, yet he's routinely drafted in the 14-18 range. I like Williams as a bounce-back candidate this season, because the Bucs are going to have to put the ball in the air (what with the lack of a legit defense). Williams will benefit in no small way from Vincent Jackson's presence. Wright has a chance to be a star, in my opinion. He's seen plenty of targets during the preseason, playing with Tennessee's varsity offense. He's been a late-round favorite of mine during draft season. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: Cam Newton in the third. How the heck did that happen? He's the only player in league history to ever top 4,000 passing yards and 500 rushing in a single season. As we've already established, I think his fantasy ceiling is No. 1 overall. ROD: I honestly don't see many early reaches. C.J. Spiller went a bit earlier than I would have taken him, I suppose. Torrey Smith was still on the board at the time, as were DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Willis McGahee. Then again, Spiller helped lead me to the F&F league title just a few months ago, when he was the top-scorer at his position during the most important weeks of the fantasy season. He may have been a reach, but we've seen that his upside is fairly high.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy – Brad Evans (Previous F&F finishes: 5th in '11; 6th in '10; 8th in '09; 11th in '08; 14th in '07; 8th in '06)
Q: 1. You continue to mess with the devil himself, Mike Shanahan, drafting RB Evan Royster in Round 7. You've since added Alfred Morris off the waiver wire. Do you feel vulnerable to Shanahan's whims with only two of the Redskins potential lead backs on roster? And, seriously, why do you even bother? A: Admittedly, I'm a masochist. What can I say? Whips and chains excite me, and so does the profit potential in Lucifer's backfield. This is a team that will run the ball successfully. The offensive line, in its third season running zone blocking, is rigid and well-versed. Combine that with the anticipated vertical success of Robert Griffin III, and someone is bound to emerge as a viable RB2. Yes, no Washington rusher has finished inside the top-15 in per game average among running backs under Shanny's watch, but a few have delivered viable results when thrust into the lead role (e.g. Ryan Torain in 2010, Roy Helu last year). A rash of injuries at the position, which led to massive turnover, reinforced the belief the 'Skins are a full-fledged RBBC, a falsity. Lucifer, despite the carousel, has maintained his desire to feature one back. Simply no one has stayed healthy. Because everyone in fantasy has been burned by Lucifer an uncountable number of times, all Washington backs are being heavily discounted. Though you may have to invest in one or two 'Skins to feel good about the situation, the investment needed is minimal. Evan Royster is going well-after pick No. 100 in average Yahoo! drafts and Morris is being picked up in only two-percent of Y! leagues. Helu remains in the mix, but question marks about his long-term durability hinder the the overall upside. It's impossible to decipher exactly what The Devil is thinking, but, best guess, Morris, who rolled over the Colts for 106 yards on 14 carries in Washington's preseason dress rehearsal, will get the first crack to nail down the gig Week 1. After nabbing Royster, it was imperative I cornered the market, grabbing the rookie off waivers. I feel good about the situation heading into the regular season, but, knowing my luck, Shanny will give Mike Bell a call. Q: 2. Even though this is a .75 PPR league, I was surprised to see you go against your RB ranks and take Darren Sproles at No. 29 overall instead of Bucs rookie Doug Martin, who also stands to catch a lot of passes in Tampa. Can you explain your reasoning and do you think the stars can align for Sproles again like they did last season? A: Roles are very well-defined in New Orleans. Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory, assuming he isn't dealt to Detroit, will be deployed between the tackles. Pierre Thomas should net roughly 9-12 touches per game via ground and air. And Sproles will reprise his role as toss runner and pass-catcher extraordinaire. Coming off a spectacular 86-catch, 1,300 total yard, nine-TD campaign, it was a no-brainer to grab him in Round 3 in a PPR-friendly format. I'm also smitten by Martin, but the allure of 80-plus receptions was too tempting. In this league the Mighty Mouse is a true king of consistency. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: Matthew Stafford, Pick 11, Round 3 – Supreme heist. In reality, the drop-off from Rodgers to Stafford is much smaller than 30 picks. Given Detroit's questionable ground game and defense, he's a strong bet for another 4,800-plus yards and 40 TDs. ROD: Michael Turner, Pick 3, Round 4 – Any number of Cole's picks could have been listed here (Roy Helu in Round 7? Jahvid Best in Round 11?). Jacquizz Rodgers' presence, high mileage and visible crust are working against Turner.
Yahoo! Sports Senior Writer – Jason Cole (Previous F&F finishes: 7th in '11)
Q: Adrian Peterson is a lightning rod subject coming back from an ACL injury suffered late in '11. You took him at No. 15 overall, which lands you in the camp that believes in his ability to heal at a superhuman rate. What are your expectations for him this season? A: Peterson was the best RB available on the board. Because I drafted at No. 10, the RBs I would have taken earlier we're gone. At 10, the best RBs on the board all had injury or holdout issues (Mathews, Forte, Murray and MJD – who's not going to be there for awhile and will be out of shape when he shows). As a result, I took Drew Brees at quarterback, figuring he was the second-best QB on the board after Rodgers. Coming back, I was boxed into taking a RB. Again, the top ones on the board aside from Peterson were Charles (ACL), Lynch (drinking and inconsistency), Richardson (knee, which will make the team guarded about using him) and Steven Jackson (lots of wear and tear). To me, I'll gamble on a relatively young guy who is incredibly motivated to return. If Peterson is right, I get a dominant player. If not, he's probably still going to be pretty good. Q: Your No. 2 RB is Michael Turner, a player who can't buy an optimistic news report this preseason. Any concerns about Michael Turner hitting the proverbial wall and/or his workload taking a big hit this season? A: Sure, there are concerns about Turner, but I still think he's going to be a 1,200-yard, 11-TD guy. At that point, I thought Turner was clearly the best RB left and another one wasn't taken until almost a full round later when Frank Gore was taken (another guy with workload/injury issues). I think Atlanta is going to score a lot of points this year and Turner is going to be the beneficiary. Throw in the fact that White and Jones will keep opponents from loading up with eight-man fronts and Turner should be fine. Yeah, I could have taken Jordy Nelson or Steve Smith, but I thought the WR depth was still really good. As it was, I got Vincent Jackson in Round 6 and I'd rather have Turner and Jackson than Jordy Nelson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: I really liked the pick of Torrey Smith by Mike Clay at the end of Round 6. I almost took him instead of Vincent Jackson, but I just played a little safer with Jackson being a veteran. I think Smith is going to challenge Mike Wallace very quickly as the best pure deep threat in the league. Combined with Flacco's arm, Smith is a full-on beast. I also liked the pick of Philip Rivers at the end of Round 10. That's a really productive QB at that point. ROD: Ryan Mathews at pick 11 overall. The kid has talent, but he's hurt again and he fumbles too much. He has never had a good year and I'm not sure why anybody should expect one now.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy – Scott Pianowski (Previous F&F finishes: 3rd in '11; 1st in '10; 3rd in '09; 7th in '08; 5th in '07; 8th in '05)
Q: You took just one RB (Fred Jackson) in the first five rounds and drafted just four in total, only two considered to be their team's lead back. Why do you hate running backs so much? Seriously, though, was the de-emphasis of RBs a plan going in, or something that just worked out that way? A: Mostly the way it fell, though I'm someone who chases floor as much as upside in the early rounds, and in the mess of 2012, not that many backs offer acceptable floor. I was prepared to take Chris Johnson (oddly, a floor guy) if he lasted to me at the ninth overall pick. My running backs are not a strong group, and I really need Jackson to be legit, obviously (or maybe I'll get lucky with a Toby Gerhart special – obviously Law Firm has no major upside). Hopefully my strength at the receiver spots will help make up for this deficiency. Q: You took Rob Gronkowski at No. 9 overall. I've heard you on many occasions say that chasing TDs is a dangerous game. With so many mouths to feed in New England, why did you buy in so early on Gronk coming off a TD-heavy career year – what kind of an encore do you envision? A: I know the dreaded R-Word – Regression – is being thrown around aggressively with Gronkowski. But regression is never the final answer or the destination; we have to ask ourselves "destination to what level?" Given that Gronkowski scored 10 times as a rookie, when he barely understood the pro game, and 18 times last year, I think it's safe to assume a double-digit touchdown season from him. Heck, the true over/under might even be as high as 12 – and how many players can you say that about? To get an idea of how uncoverable Gronkowski is, dial up this video (all of his scores, set to the 1812 Overture). Now you tell me: how many touchdowns should we expect? And keep in mind, he was the No. 2 fantasy tight end last year even if you remove all the touchdowns off his ledger. He'll be a stud no matter how many spikes are on the board. The other reason I took Gronk is simple: I had the dreaded ninth pick and my Top 8 flew off the board. So it goes. I'm not going to freak out too much about the presence of Brandon Lloyd. He'll probably assume the 89 targets Deion Branch got (and a few more, sure), and remember the Patriots seldom throw to their running backs. Oh, and that media story about Aaron Hernandez being the No. 1 target in New England? Training camp noise. Some of the same media wanted to run Randy Moss out of town five summers ago. We all remember what happened when the bell rang. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: You know it's a deep receiver year when Stevie Johnson lasts until pick 65. Well played, Michael Salfino. Other values: DeAngelo Williams (95), Lance Moore (99), Anquan Boldin (Ibanez All-Star, 111), Seattle Defense (150). And while Kyle Rudolph might not be a steal at 138, I absolutely love him this year – a receiving tight end who's not bogged down by dirty work and in-line responsibilities. ROD: Maybe it's because I like Eric Decker, but I'm not a fan of Demaryius Thomas at 51. Peyton Manning demands precision from his wideouts, and Thomas has admitted he barely even ran routes during the Tebow days. It's going to take a while for Manning and Thomas to click. Other reaches: Kenny Britt (59; bail bond sold separately), Roy Helu (82; stock collapsed this summer), Danny Amendola (114; not useless, but very little touchdown or yardage upside).
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy – Dalton Del Don (Previous F&F finishes: 4th in '11; 5th in '10; 12th in '09)
Q: After taking Arian Foster No 1., you didn't take another RB until you took Foster's backup in Round 7. Was that by design to go WR heavy after the top pick? And how do you think things turned out with your backfield as a whole? A: It wasn't by design, although I'm not surprised it went that way because it gets ugly fast with running backs this year. I was happy to see the No. 2 WR on my board (Julio Jones) fall to me at the end of Round 2 and wasted little time grabbing Dez Bryant at the end of Round 4. The seventh round seemed like a good time to secure Ben Tate, who would be a top-five fantasy asset should my first pick go down. I'll be the first to admit my RB depth doesn't appear great with how this unfolded, but as insane as it sounds, I'm liking my Cedric Benson pick in Round 9 more and more. As the featured back in one of the NFL's best offenses, that could salvage my RB situation. Q: You wound up with a steal of Philip Rivers in Round 10. But you made a claim that one of these years you are going to not draft a QB at all and just play the waiver wire at that position. Can you explain your disdain for drafting QBs early? A: Assuming a 1-QB format, I wait on the position pretty much always. But that comment only really applies to this specific league, because thanks to the small benches, few if any owners will carry a backup QB. So that leaves around 20 or so for me to play the matchups with on a weekly basis, and I'm of the belief schedule matters a ton in the NFL. This strategy made more sense when it was a 14-team league, as filling in 2 RB, 2 WR and 2 FLX spots was even more crucial. But getting Rivers in Round 10 here was just the latest example of why I like waiting on quarterbacks (I have no problem rolling with some sort of combo among Andrew Luck, RGIII, Carson Palmer, Matt Schaub or Jay Cutler as my starters this year either). But one year I may very well try this "punt QBs at the draft" strategy in this league. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: I liked Willis McGahee in the middle of the seventh round. He's certainly not overly exciting, but he's locked in a featured role in an offense that should create a bunch of scoring opportunities with Peyton Manning taking over QB duties (although Denver's schedule is rough). ROD: I'll stick with the seventh round and say Roy Helu. I see the upside, but he's probably currently third on Washington's depth chart and plays for a coaching staff that doesn't believe he could ever handle a full workload.
MEET THE FRIENDS FantasyGuru.com – Joe Dolan (filling John Hansen's shoes for '12) (Previous F&F finishes: 6th in '11; 10th in '10; 6th in '09; 5th in '08; 9th in '07; 4th in '06; 10th in '05; 1st in '04)
Q: 1. You took a couple of rookies at RB – Doug Martin and Isaiah Pead. What kind of a year do you expect each to have? A: I didn't come into this draft specifically targeting the rookie RBs, but I found the value for both to be very proper where I took them. I think Martin has a chance to be a 275-300 touch rookie, and if he is able to garner around 1300-1500 yards from scrimmage with those touches, I'm going to be very happy with my selection. The new Buccaneers staff told you what they thought of LeGarrette Blount when they traded back into the first round to draft Martin back in April. Their plan is to start him and run the offense through him. As for Pead, I view him as a Jamaal Charles type of satellite player, and he certainly has upside. But what I like in particular is that the Rams have never really had a nice backup/complement to Steven Jackson, who has taken a beating in that backfield for almost a decade. If Pead shows he can contribute on third downs, I wouldn't be surprised if he's used to give Jackson a breather here and there. I'm expected 6-8 touches per game, with some upside. Q: 2. Reggie Wayne's stock took a hit last year with the Colts' collapse after losing Peyton Manning. With Andrew Luck now behind center, what kind of rebound are you expecting from Wayne, who you took at No. 66 overall? A: It's easy to forget that Reggie Wayne caught 75 passes last year given the slop that was throwing him the football. His re-signing with Indy seemed to show me that he's buying into Andrew Luck and Bruce Arians' offense, and after three preseason games I'm totally sold as well. The Colts are moving Wayne around the formation, totally unlike what he did with Peyton Manning, and he's made a big impact and looks to be on the same page as Luck. I think Wayne could be this year's Steve Smith: an older veteran who everyone assumed was washed up, but one who could have a great year with a supremely gifted rookie QB. If he has 75 grabs again, but increases his output to around 1100 yards, I'd be thrilled, and I think it's within reach. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: Cam Newton – I know the whole "taking a QB early" mantra is still taboo to a lot in the fantasy industry, and I understand that. But if that means that a guy like Newton – who can be the top overall scorer in fantasy football – is going to fall to the mid third round to supplement a team that started with Chris Johnson and Jimmy Graham, it's a mindset that can be exploited. ROD: Ahmad Bradshaw – he's simply one player I'm not touching this year. He's a tough kid, but he's still always hurt, and he had a really poor 2011 season (as did the Giants' run game as a whole – no team averaged fewer YPC). The Giants used a first-round pick in April on David Wilson, and I think they're just looking for reasons to lessen Bradshaw's load. Based on ADP, a third-round pick for him isn't technically a "reach," but it's a spot where I'm not even entertaining drafting Bradshaw. I'd rather have one of the many impact WRs who were still on the board.
RotoWire.com – Chris Liss (Previous F&F finishes: 9th in '11; 12th in '10; 11th in '09; 1st in '08; 3rd in '07; 6th in '06; 1st in '05)
Q: You've got some serious juice at the WR position after taking Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green off the top. But that left you with injury/age question marks with your starting RBs (Ahmad Bradshaw/Frank Gore). Any reason why you didn't want to secure Bradshaw's platoonmate David Wilson at pick No. 100 instead of Beanie Wells? And how do you feel about the crew you took to backup your starting RBs? A: This league has such a small bench, you can't really worry about drafting backups. When the bye weeks hit, and one of your top-3 picks is hurt, who has room for backup RBs? So while I like Wilson's upside if he ever got the job, I went with a guy who presumably has the job – or at least has a chance to have it – in Wells. (Plus knee cartilage is overrated.) I also got Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, so hopefully, I'll have an extra starter on the Pats, and C.J. Spiller could be useful even if Fred Jackson stays healthy and a monster if he doesn't. Q: I'll be honest, I expected to get Robert Griffin III as my backup QB in Round 11. You still needed a starting QB in that same round, two picks ahead of me. I assumed you would take Peyton Manning. But, much to my surprise, you went with RGIII instead, and I ended up with a luxury backup in Manning. Was this more about RGIII's upside or Manning's downside? A: I might end up regretting that – passing on Manning in the 11th round – but RGIII, for better or worse, was just the guy I preferred to have. Part of playing fantasy football is for enjoyment, and having a running QB with so much potential was too enticing for me to pass up. If he flops, there are a ton of QBs available on the waiver wire in a 1-QB, 12-team league with short benches. I don't want to say Manning doesn't have plenty of upside, too, but it's less exciting. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: I liked Andy Behrens getting Hakeem Nicks and Percy Harvin at the turn in Rounds 3/4. ROD: Unfortunately, I think Behrens reached severely in Round 5 with Matt Ryan when Philip Rivers went in Round 10 and Peyton in Round 11.
RotoWire.com – Jeff Erickson (Previous F&F finishes: 11th in '11; 11th in '10; 9th in '09; 3rd in '08; 11th in '07; 11th in '05)
Q: . You took Ray Rice in Round 1, but just one other RB (Donald Brown) in the next seven rounds. Then you took five RBs with your final seven picks. How do you like your backfield as it stands, and how do you think those late-round lottery tickets are looking? A: I've found that a lot of my drafts have gone in a similar fashion. The running back pool this year is remarkably unstable, so why force it in the early rounds when there's other sources of reliable production? The two flex spots encourage this behavior as well – there will almost certainly be weeks when I'll start two running backs and four receivers. It helps that I started with Ray Rice, someone who presumably I can start week-in and week-out. As far as my mid-to-late round lottery tickets, I like them quite a bit. DeAngelo Williams is someone I'm targeting this year as a "Last Year's Bum." Yes, last year was frustrating, and the sources of that frustration – Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart – are still there. But let's not forget that Williams averaged 5.4 yards per carry and still got seven touchdowns in less action last year, that he signed a big contract prior to last year for a reason, and Stewart is already banged up. It's not all that difficult to envision a positive outcome with him. I'm also pretty happy with Rashad Jennings as my fourth back, someone that could start in Week 1 if MJD is still holding out or just reporting. Not many holdouts last into the season, and I'm no fortune teller so I'm not going to say that MJD's will, but all the trappings are there at least. Otherwise, Jennings isn't a bad handcuff/lottery ticket to have in the long run. Starks, eh, we'll see – that could have been a mistake, especially as it cost me my preferred quarterback in Rivers. Other guys will emerge over the course of this season, too – just hope to get lucky in the free agent lottery. Q: You took Michael Crabtree ahead of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, among others. Any concern with Crabtree given the amount of mouths to feed in that passing offense (Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Vernon Davis), especially with the team's conservative approach? A: I went back-and-forth between Crabtree and Garcon, and I might have made the wrong decision. The consensus in the draft room was that I did, for what that's worth. But at this point in the draft, I'm hoping to hit the home run, and both guys are swing for the fences guys still. Crabtree still hasn't had a completely normal training camp and preseason, but this year comes as close as its been. There's stability in the coaching staff and the quarterback spot for the first time in his professional career, too. I believe that pedigree still matters, and not all receivers break out in the third season – some do in the second, some in the fourth, some never. It's not a glowing endorsement of Crabtree, but I do have some faith in him still, though it's not as if I was targeting him before the draft. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: Insert boilerplate language about Steals/Reaches of the Draft here. I think I reached on Donald Brown, and I've done so in multiple places. But I think it also should pay off, and I also think that reaching is appropriate in snake drafts, so long as it's not at an extreme level. SOD: Philip Rivers (10.12) – I've expressed my lament about the Starks pick, and how it cost me Rivers already. Rivers' offensive line is a mess, so I can see why he slipped, but even last year's "down" season netted him 4,624 passing yards. He's played all 16 games the last six seasons and has passed for over 4,000 yards the last four seasons – I'll take that any day at the end of the 10th round. ROD: Adrian Peterson (2.3) – Is there any way this doesn't blow up in my face? We'll have a good laugh when he goes for 1,300 and 15 touchdowns this year. I wouldn't have taken the plunge here, but then again, there's no way that Peterson would have made it back to Jason in Round 3. So call this a very reasonable reach, and a reflection of our respective inclination to take on risk at this point in the draft.
Pro Football Focus – Mike Clay (Previous F&F finishes: First year in the F&F)
Q: At No. 75 overall, you took Robert Meachem ahead of most any ADP source has him listed. What kind of season do you expect him to have in his first season in San Diego? A: I've had Meachem listed as a borderline WR2/WR3 since the day San Diego snatched him up; and I feel even better about his situation after Vincent Brown went down for half the season. Considering that Philip Rivers makes heavy use of his wide receivers deep down field, a role Meachem played quite often in New Orleans, he figures to have massive upside as a result of stepping into Vincent Jackson's old role. There are no sure things in this game, but Meachem is a much safer bet for top-30 numbers than most realize. Q: You took just one tight end, Jacob Tamme, and it was in Round 11. Was it by design to wait for Tamme late, or was the plan to wait for a tight end late, regardless of who you ended up getting? And what are your expectations for Tamme? A: My tight end target was Antonio Gates, but you, Mr. Funston, snagged him three picks before I was due up in the fourth round. That being the case, I decided to wait … and wait … and wait at the position. No one I liked really fell to me at the right time, so I grabbed Tamme in the 11th round. I'll admit some concern with Joel Dreessen's impact on Tamme's upside this season, especially in the touchdown department, but I feel like he can catch 60 balls and score a half dozen touchdowns with Peyton Manning under center. He'll do, and if he doesn't, there's never been a year with this much tight end upside on the waiver wire. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: The best value pick was Hakeem Nicks going 36th overall. Nicks is a top-five option at the wide receiver position and was a pick away from making it to the fourth round. That's outstanding value, especially when you consider that Andy was able to go RB-RB (Murray/Forte) and still come out with a top wideout. Heck, Victor Cruz went more than a full round earlier! ROD: I can't let anyone off the hook who selected a Redskins running back before Round 12. Roy Helu and Evan Royster went five picks apart in the seventh round and it's possible that neither back starts Week 1. Royster appears in line for a relatively significant early-season role, but how long before he's on the bench? Helu's health is a major red flag and he isn't guaranteed any type of role when healthy. With Alfred Morris and even Robert Griffin III stealing carries, this is a situation to avoid.
San Diego Union-Tribune Chargers beat writer – Michael Gehlken (Previous F&F finishes: 2nd in '11; 2nd in '10; 1st in '09; 8th in '08; 13th in '07)
Q: You cover the Chargers for a living and landed Ryan Mathews with the No. 11 overall pick. What are you seeing and hearing in regards to Mathews to give you faith in him as a first rounder? A: It's funny. I grew up hating – hating – those overblown offseason articles you see on various players about how well they're preparing for a season. Still remember 2004 when Kevan Barlow took up kickboxing, just as Jamal Lewis did before his 2,000-yard season. Barlow, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2003, tanked to 3.4 and was out of the league soon after. The lesson: take puff pieces with a grain of salt. So, I don't say the following lightly: People talk about breakthrough seasons. If there was such thing as a breakthrough offseason, Mathews was having that before he broke his clavicle. From physical shape to ball security to pass protection to learning to make defenders miss in the open field and so forth, he became a more mature, polished player in his first real NFL offseason. How that translates to fantasy is Mathews' per-game production will be there. In our league that rewards receptions, his profile has added value. It'll come down to health. He says he'll be back for Week 1. People I speak to doubt it. But coach Norv Turner said recently that Mathews, in light of the workouts he's doing now, will be "ready to go" once the shoulder heals. It should be a short wait for elite-potential production. Only further health issues will keep Mathews from being a top back in 2012. Q: You had complications that forced the auto-picker to select most of your roster. Obviously, you didn't finish with your ideal lineup. What is your plan for making lemonade out of the lemons you were handed? A: Yeah, that was unfortunate. The plan is to manage the crap out of this crappy team until it gets where it needs to be. I've already made my share of transactions, including the release of brilliant 10th-round pick Mason Crosby. I've also tried to mix things up a bit with trade offers. We'll see where it goes. The draft is over. It's done. The ball is in my court now. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: Ryan Williams is coming off the patellar tendon rupture. It probably won't be until 2013 when he recaptures his pre-injury explosion, but he's shown enough in camp and the preseason to suggest he can be an impact player this year for Andy Behrens. Good value in Round 7. Also, a few picks earlier, Michael Salfino took Malcom Floyd, who just needs to stay healthy. Over the past 16 games in which he played more than 35 snaps, Floyd has 63 catches, 1,211 yards and nine touchdowns. ROD: Excluding my own players? I usually love second-guessing others, but in light of my draft, that seems in poor taste. I'll keep things general. There is a ton of value of quarterback and tight end again this year. We had five players at those positions go in the first 17 picks. First-rounders like Aaron Rodgers and Rob Gronkowski could pan out fine, but I'd rather be the one taking Philip Rivers in Round 10, Ben Roethlisberger in Round 11, or Kyle Rudolph in 12. Just a philosophical difference.
Wall Street Journal/Yahoo! Sports – Michael Salfino (Previous F&F finishes: 12th in '11; 3rd in '10; 5th in '09)
Q: I know you're a Jets fan, and you took a flyer on their rookie WR Stephen Hill in Round 12. Is there any hope that he can make an impact for your fantasy team given the state of the offense this preseason? A: It was late. I took a flyer. He has freak size and speed but only caught 49 passes in his college career playing for a Georgia Tech team that threw less than every team except Army and Navy. Those lesser-targeted college receivers drafted in Rounds 1 or 2 did not start quickly – none caught more than 28 passes, I wrote in the Journal a while back. But, in fairness, none started as Hill is slated to do on opening day. So, high ceiling and if it doesn't look like it's working, I broom him early. Q: You took two pieces (Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall) of the Steelers backfield puzzle. How do you see things working out for Pittsburgh in the running game and any concern that, with Todd Haley at the offensive controls and the backfield situation looking so shaky, that the emphasis is going to shift to a pass-heavy approach? A: Yes, lot's of concern. But remember Redman had a big playoff game, too. So I'm sure that Mike Tomlin remembers. But the Steelers offensive line has taken a beating this summer. They could be forced to pass a lot out of necessity. Still, I have Chris Johnson and Reggie Bush, so I don't have to worry too much about this. I probably like Bush better than most because I think in a PPR league, the receiving back on a bad team with a rookie QB gets a lot of checkdown/desperation targets. Q: Who was the SOD (Steal of the Draft) and who was the ROD (Reach of the Draft)? A: SOD: Philip Rivers with the last pick of the 10th round. ROD: Sproles in the third round. I think Pierre Thomas comes close to outscoring him.
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