OK, this post requires a warning, right at the top: If you have zero interest in reading a few thousand words about another man's fantasy draft, then you'll want to check out right now. Go. Beat it. Scram.
I'm guessing you could assemble another team or two in the time it would take to get through this thing. Fantasy draft recaps aren't everyone's cup of Yoo-hoo. I get it. They actually read these things aloud to enemy combatants in secret prisons. The tactic, while cruel, has been highly effective.
But if you're willing to invest some time in this feature, you'll find some useful information — it's true, I swear. Today we're reviewing the results of the 2012 Fantasy Pros Invitational (drafted on Thursday, August 23). The league is comprised entirely of fantasy analysts who have, at some point recently, finished in the top 10 percent in the Fantasy Pros accuracy ranks. Thus, it's a very good group. Extremely competitive, full of sharks. We've got every expert who's ever finished atop the Fantasy Pros ranks. Defending league champ Pat Fitzmaurice is back, too. Even if you can't make yourself read all 8,000,000 words in this piece (or however many it is), you should at least scan this monster, bookmark the websites and follow these folks on Twitter. You won't regret it.
This season, we expanded the field in the Invitational from 12 owners to 20, so as to ensure that every participant would kinda/sorta hate their team. There are also some scoring quirks here (six points per passing TD, 0.5 points per reception) that clearly impacted draft strategies.
After the obligatory sign-up banner, you'll find a few thoughts from each of our 20 managers (well, OK, 19 of 'em), listed in the order that they drafted. You'll get the draft results, too. Keep scrolling...
The slant of the scoring pushed me to Aaron Rodgers at first overall, plus I didn't want to play quarterback chicken in a league of this size. I was thrilled to go Welker-Nelson at 40-41, but that means I need to get lucky with my running backs. (When Donald Brown is your top tailback, you're not actively seeking out side bets). I keep drafting Toby Gerhart (3-for-3 in my first draft cycle), which means I know something everyone doesn't or I'm the last guy to accept the reality of Adrian Peterson, superhero. I don't blame anyone for fading my Gerhart pick — though at 121st overall, at least the price was reasonable. -SP
With 36 picks in between each pair of my almost-bookend picks, my strategy going into this draft was to secure my starting quarterback and two starting running backs (in some order) with my first three picks, then turn my attention to receivers. I was thrilled about having the No. 2 overall pick; considerably less thrilled about picking next at No. 39. The draft felt a little like Disney World — long waits for about one minute of action (and then repeat).
As tempting as it was to take Tom Brady at No. 2, due to scoring format and depth of the league, it was too difficult for me to pass up Foster. Despite missing a few games last year, in the past two seasons combined Foster has 4,000-plus yards from scrimmage, 119 receptions and 30 total touchdowns. Provided Foster and Bradshaw both stay healthy (no lock in either case), my starting running back duo is as good as any in the league. I'm relatively happy with my first three picks (Foster, Bradshaw and Rivers) and overall receiver depth. I wish I had added my third running back sooner than Daniel Thomas (Round 9), but hindsight is 20-20.
League settings require us to start 3-5 receivers and I had none through 78 picks. Although my team lacks an elite receiver, my top six all rank within my top 60 at the position. With an upgrade to Andrew Luck from a trio of Collins, Painter and Orlovsky, Wayne should at least be able to maintain his 2011 production (960 yards). Meachem should get plenty of looks in an offense that has ranked first in passing yards per attempt in three of the past four seasons. A physical freak (6-4, 230 pounds, 42-inch vertical), Baldwin has spent less time this year fighting teammates and more time maintaining focus. Ranking him higher than most, I expect (hope for) a breakout season for Baldwin this year. Paraphrasing a raunchy George Carlin joke to describe my receivers, I don't have any No. 1's but I have three No. 2's. -KH
Ben Doughty, Fantasy Sharks
This draft was incredibly challenging. With 20 teams in the league, one wrong move could have sent my team reeling. I had the third pick which is usually a no-brainer for one of the big three RBs. I briefly considered QB, but ultimately decided to go with McCoy over Rice or Brady. My plan was to take at least one RB and QB in the first three rounds and either my second running back or a wide receiver. This league is .5 PPR so the deep receiver pool was less enticing to me early on.
My second round pick (35 picks after my first) had me debating WR or QB. I was surprised by how many QB's were taken before it came back to me (8). It came down to Jennings, Jordy, or Welker. I went with Jennings even with the early concussion issue. I took the chance a QB would fall to me in the third round.
Round 3 was easy for me to nab Vick and hope that he stays healthy. I wasn't stoked about having Vick with McCoy necessarily, but I felt he was the best QB left on the board. The long wait for my 4th round pick was a decision for me. I could take my second running back or tight end. I went with Vernon Davis. He should be solid this season and with so many owners I don't need to worry about the position on a weekly basis. I was fortunate to land my targeted running back coming back in the 5th round in Cedric Benson. I think he is going to be a solid No. 2 and was ecstatic to find him still available at pick 83.
This draft became thin incredibly fast. I am comfortable with Davone Bess and Mario Manningham as my other wide receivers. I picked Vincent Brown (yes, the one out 6-8 weeks) in the 9th round hoping to be able to stash him until he comes back. I think David Nelson could be a surprise if Chan Gailey's pass happy offense puts the ball in the air early and often. My final pick was Devin Hester. I don't expect much from him but felt he was worth the risk in Round 15.
My running back depth is not a strength by any means. We start two, and have two flex positions. I'm really counting on Isaac Redman to have some sort of production because my only other running back is Taiwan Jones from Oakland. He obviously only has value if McFadden becomes injured, and then he would split time with Goodson. -BD
My plan for attacking this draft was to go quarterback first, with the fourth overall pick. My reason behind this is simple - I know I can get an elite quarterback at 1.04, the scoring format rewards six points per touchdown pass, and there are 20 teams participating in this draft. If I skipped on quarterback with the first pick, the pickings would be slim when 2.17 came back around. I picked Tom Brady at 1.04, who is ranked 2nd in my projections.
I honestly had no idea what players would be available at 2.17, so I took one of the best players available in Antonio Gates and figured I would get the best wide receiver available on the turn at 3.04. Taking a top-5 tight end turned out to be the right move, as I was later able to secure a strong (in my estimation) wide receiver corps and have an elite tight end in the process.
Pick 3.04 (44 overall) - I selected Brandon Lloyd to pair with Tom Brady. If you're going to have a QB-WR combo, make it a good one. Lloyd is a potential Top 10 WR if he performs as expected. At this point in the draft I had no running backs with 33 more picks before my next selection.
Pick 4.17 was approaching and I was watching Kevin Smith, Peyton Hillis, Frank Gore and Shonn Greene come off the board. I know very few teams will have two strong running backs, but I just wanted one who had 200+ carry potential and hopefully find a diamond in the rough for my other running backs. I went QB, TE and WR with my first three picks; if I could get a legit RB, I'd be stoked. Jacquizz Rodgers went one pick before me; I love him this year, but not as much in a league that is only 0.5 PPR. Staring me in the face was one of the best quiet performers of training camp and preseason so far: Willis McGahee. I believe McGahee will be the Broncos primary rusher all season long. John Fox is not one to start rookies at running back, especially when one of those duties is protect Peyton Manning. McGahee in that offense could produce a top-20 season. Welcome to my RB1 slot, Willis. The wait paid off.
Pick 5.04 - My goal was to get Reggie Wayne, but he went four picks prior. The drop-off of veteran or proven wide receivers was thinning out, and I needed another one to go with Lloyd. The running back talent was thinner than wide receiver, so my choice was to secure my WR2. When proven talent dries up, the plan of action in my book is to go after potential talent, hoping for a high ceiling. Instead of rolling the dice with under-achievers Malcolm Floyd, Denarius Moore, Michael Crabtree, et al, I decided on a rookie who is making waves this preseason, who also figures to be a prominent fixture of the offense - that's Justin Blackmon.
Pick 6.17 - By this point everything was thinning out, but tight end offered the most value on the board. In this format, there are two flex spots, including tight end, so I decided that taking a tight end was more important than securing my third wide receiver. I selected Jermaine Gresham, and will start him at one of my flex spots.
Pick 7.04 - I needed to get my third wide receiver here or the pickings would be very slim 33 picks later. I again decided on potential talent and selected Titans rookie WR Kendall Wright, who is also having a strong preseason and looks to play a big role in the offense this year. Wright won out over Brandon LaFell. This decision could turn out to be a mistake or the right move. I feel confident in Wright, so that's what matters.
Pick 8.17, 9.04 - I punted RB2 long enough, it was time to make a pick here. My next two picks were going to be the best running backs available. I wanted Kendall Hunter, but he went five picks earlier. I decided on LeGarrette Blount and Mike Tolbert on the turn. Both backs will see touches and could see an increased role if an injury hits.
Pick 10.17 and 11.04 - It was time to assemble my bench and choose my defense. Let's face it, the value was thin everywhere, except defense and kicker. I decided I would wait on kicker and choose a strong D. I chose James Jones and the Patriots D/ST. Jones could be entered into my lineup as a starter, if absolutely needed. He's a great value this late in the draft. One injury on the Packers receiver corps could make Jones a strong start. I expect a rebound from the Patriots defense this year. They will be strong in sacks and turnovers. Any yardage or scoring defense will be icing on the cake. Plus I think rookie Jeff Demps is going to be a great returner for them this year.
Picks 12.17, 13.04, 14.17, 15.04 - Time to draft some sleepers and a kicker. At 12.17 I went with Denver's expected WR3, Andre Caldwell. If Manning is Manning, this could be a great pick. 13.07 I took the best kicker available in Randy Bullock. (Ed. note: Bullock hit IR, so Haseley added his replacement, Shayne Graham). The Texans figure to score a lot of points, naturally their kicker will benefit. Pick 14.07 was Le'Ron McClain. If Norv Turner decides to keep what has worked for him in the past - a big bruising back who can catch, then this could be a great pick. My last pick at 15.04 was Saints wide receiver Joseph Morgan. I am confident someone will replace Robert Meachem in New Orleans, Morgan has been having a great camp and preseason. If he earns a WR3 role, this pick will be well worth it.
Conclusion: Overall, I am pleased with the results of my draft. The best pick for me is arguably selecting Willis McGahee as the 77th overall selection and my RB1. That pick justified me choosing a top-3 quarterback, top-5 tight end and a top-15 wide receiver to go along with McGahee, who I believe will be a top-20 running back. I don't see any other team that can boast that. If my two rookie wide receivers Blackmon and Wright pan out, as I expect them to, I should be able to compete with any team in the league. -JH
It's pretty crazy how many times a person can be denied the player they wanted in a 20-team draft, by just a pick or two. That was definitely my experience in this draft, where receiving targets Victor Cruz, Pierre Garcon, Torrey Smith were coveted near misses (among many others). And, in hindsight, Donald Brown or Willis McGahee would have been more prudent choices than Jacquizz Rodgers in Round 4 (Pick 76). I went with my heart over my mind on that one — and that's fine in a 12-team draft, where you don't have as big a problem finding replacement depth. In a 20-teamer, a bird in the hand (RB with a starting gig) is better than a Dirty Bird backup with upside potential. -BF
First rule: Always show up on time. I had a prior commitment that kept me from the beginning of the draft, and I had my first four picks auto-selected (Ryan Mathews, Mike Wallace, Victor Cruz and Kenny Britt). Even in a 20-team league, I would never have taken Britt or Wallace that early since I'm down on them, but I'll make it work. It was my fault for being late. At the end of the season, if Wallace and Britt play well, I'll take all the credit for their success. I ended up with a decent roster, and hopefully I'll compete, following my draft disaster. It's always fun to take fliers on guys like Alfred Morris and Kevin Ogletree to see if they pan out. -JE
First off, drafting in a 20-team league is tough. Not to mention the stellar cast of fantasy virtuosos earning their way into this Fantasy Pros Invitational, hosted by the always charming Mr. Behrens. By the luck of the draw I ended up with the seventh pick of 20. My partner in crime John Paulsen landed the eighth pick. Since our draft lists are similar, this caused some headaches and interesting decisions throughout the draft.
With the seventh pick I was set to take one of Rodgers/Brady, or the next best RB on my board. Rodgers and Brady were gone inside the first four picks, but thanks to the skilled auto-picker, Ryan Mathews' clavicle was selected with the 6th pick and both Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden were available to me at 1.07. It was a difficult decision, essentially a coin flip for me, but I selected Johnson and the perceived safety, hoping for a rebound. DMC went 1.08 to John.
In a format as deep as this, I place a premium on consistent weekly producers. Both Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden were selected in the first round of the 2008 draft. Since then, Chris Johnson has missed only one game in his four-year career. Conversely, Darren McFadden has missed 19 games and has yet to play in more than 13 in any one season.
The downside of the seventh pick in a 20-team league is the 26 picks before picking again. I was open to just about anything at 2.14, but with eight QBs off the board, the decision to wait on QB was made for me. Darren Sproles was available, and while I don't love him as much in a 0.5 PPR league as I would in a full PPR, I feel good about a starting RB duo of CJ1k and Sproles.
In the middle rounds I was pleased to be able to pick Percy Harvin and Torrey Smith, both of whom I've very high on this season. In the fifth I grabbed Jake Locker as my starting QB (16th QB selected). Locker is not an ideal starter in a standard league, but in a 20-teamer I like the upside his legs bring, and waiting on QB allowed me to grab some quality RBs & WRs. I was able to use my final pick on Matt Hasselbeck as a backup, after all the starting QBs were off the board.
One thing to note about the dynamics of a 20-team league is that QBs go fast. However, after the first 19-21 of them are off the board, the next tier hangs around for a while. In such a deep format, filling your starting roster is paramount and backup QBs are neglected for all but the Vickiest of owners. Twenty QBs went off the board through the first six rounds, but only one was selected in each of the seventh and eighth. Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Christian Ponder were all available in the ninth round and presented good value there. The best value pick of the entire draft may have been Chet Gresham's selection of then-yet-to-be-named-starter and NC State Wolfpack standout Russell Wilson in the 10th.
The rest of my draft was used to grab Greg Olsen at TE and draft depth and handcuffs elsewhere (Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Javon Ringer, Joel Dreessen). Rarely do you feel good about your team coming out of a 20 team draft, but by waiting at QB I was able to fill out a competitive lineup at the cost of Jake Locker as my starting QB. If Locker can stay on the field and continue to make big plays, I like my chances. -JM
Given the size of the draft (20 masochists, experts in the art of self-flagellation) and the number of non-QB skill starters (8), my plan of attack was to fill out my RB and WR starters before turning my attention to QB or TE which are deeper considering we only need to start one of each.
I felt great about how the first five rounds turned out. I was expecting an exercise in frustration, but my targeted players were actually slipping to me. Darren McFadden will finish in the top 5 if he can put together a full season. Due to the format, I felt I had to pass on Calvin Johnson, but it turns out that I could've gotten a decent RB2 in the third round, in the form of Michael Turner or Reggie Bush. Last year's draft went very heavy RB early, and I thought it would go the same way in 2012. Oh well.
Steven Jackson is a solid RB2 and I felt fortunate to get him in the second round. I like Steve Smith in the third — I would've preferred Percy Harvin but my rat bastard of a colleague Josh took him the pick before mine. In the fourth and fifth, I took Pierre Garcon, who has already developed a nice rapport with Robert Griffin III, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who averaged 5.8—91—0.6 over the final five games of 2011. I am hoping he can pick up where he left off, despite the Raiders' rough preseason.
By focusing on RB and WR, I was left with Josh Freeman in the sixth round. I regret this pick somewhat due to Freeman's struggles in the preseason, but he has a great schedule and should be okay once things start to click. My plan was to go QBBC with Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, but middle round picks were at such a premium that I didn't feel comfortable spending two on the quarterback position. As it turned out both players lasted until the ninth round. Had I known that, I would've taken Smith in the eighth round and Fitzpatrick in the ninth, and instead drafted super sleeper Lance Moore in the 6th. Hindsight is 20/15.
Once I had a QB, I started looking for tight end and decided to take Brent Celek in the seventh — he was the 13th TE off the board and I felt I got good value there. Celek started the 2011 season slowly, but posted 53—738—5 over the final 11 games, getting 7.0 targets per game down the stretch. I think he has a chance to post top-5 numbers if he's allowed to run routes. Last year in this league I made the playoffs by starting both Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski, so I elected to draft Coby Fleener in eighth round as a possible flex starter. I would've preferred Kyle Rudolph or Jared Cook, but they went between my seventh and eighth round picks.
I am not very happy with my bench. I like Fitzpatrick at quarterback — he will form a nice QBBC with Freeman — but I was slow to draft backup RBs and WRs because I took the Packers in the 11th and Stephen Gostkowski in the 12th. I normally would stream defenses, but that's not possible in a 20-team league. I overestimated my ability to find sleepers in this league in the final rounds, and ended up with Marcel Reece, Joe McKnight and Roberto "Ankle Weights" Wallace. Hopefully, the waiver wire gods will be kind. -JP
Marc Caviglia, Bruno Boys, 2011 Fantasy Pros draft accuracy champs, @BrunoBoys
Drafting in a 20-team league is never easy. Factor in your competition against 19 other industry experts, and you have your work cut out for you. However, at the end of the day I like my team and feel that it can go toe-toe with the rest of the league. Securing Calvin Johnson at 1.09 gives me a receiver that I can rely on weekly. Forget about the Madden Curse, Megatron is going to produce and make the owners who passed him up look stupid. Reaching for Tony Romo at 2.12 was a must, because the last thing I wanted to do was wait on a signal caller and be stuck having to pencil in Alex Smith weekly.
My biggest weakness is at the running back position. With it mandatory to start two running backs and a flex, there just isn't enough talent in the league to solidify a solid 1-2 combo and it shows on my team. I better hope that the wheels haven't fallen off of Michael Turner (3.09), and that someone taught Shonn Greene (4.12) that the goal is to gain yards.
Only time will tell how this team plays out, however one thing is for certain: Mr. Secret Treasure Loaf (see below) and his team of second-rate talent will be looking up at the Bruno Boys in the standings. -MC
I was nearly shocked in the first round, drafting out of the 10 hole, when Calvin Johnson kept falling only to go right in front of me at 1.9. I became prematurely excited at the notion of having Megatron in this 20-teamer, not that I was disappointed at all to draft Demarco Murray with my first pick. Ironically, it was in this same league last year that I selected Murray in the last few founds. With short benches, I held onto him as long as I could - right up until the week I was forced to make a move. Of course, I dropped him and he exploded the next week and I couldn't get him back.
My strategy for this 20-team league was quite simple, actually. Knowing the wait would be painful between picks watching the talent come off the board, I was merely looking for the best players available while focusing on running backs early. I knew I wouldn't get an elite QB, although I hoped to grab Cam Newton with my secnd pick. That didn't happen, of course, so I took a gamble with Adrian Peterson and then again with Dez Bryant - both fall into that category of players with much more talent than their ADP suggests.
Missing out on the elite QBs, I was targeting Peyton Manning or RGIII. Both went before I could make a move, so I went with Andrew Luck. While it's a little unnerving going into a league with a rookie QB, I'm not overly concerned given how good he has looked in the preseason and how capable and prepared he is, having started so many games at Stanford. Backing him up with Ryan Tannehill wasn't ideal, but again, a run of QBs prevented me from having a shot at Russell Wilson - he was my QB2 target.
Beyond QB, I missed out on the top flight tight ends, too. So, grabbing Dustin Keller was more of a crutch than a planned strategy. Again, with so many players coming off the board between picks, when there's a run at a position you need there's not much you can do about it. My intent was to take Keller and come back with Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph or Jared Cook. That didn't happen, so I punted and grabbed Jordan Cameron much later. Cameron is the "swing for the fence" type of pick that I don't mind making in this format.
The strength of my team will certainly be my receivers - Dez, Crabtree, LaFell, Steve Smith (STL) and Keshawn Martin - and my RBs, as long as Peterson doesn't encounter any unexpected setbacks. I was ecstatic to grab Michael Bush in this format since we start two flexes. Handcuffing Demarco with Felix was merely a bonus. -BH
I've never been in a 20-team draft, so I really didn't know what to expect. I was afeared! Going in, my only strategy was to get a quarterback not named Mark Sanchez as my starter. So with the 11th pick I went with Drew Brees (the tallest quarterback on my team). After that it was all downhill, while I tried to grab loose rocks and twigs named Doug Martin, Dwayne Bowe and Kevin Smith.
I have a fake football crush on Doug Martin, and you should as well. All those Ray Rice comparisons aren't hyperbole. The dude can run and catch and do other footbally things at an elevated level, whereas LeGarrette Blount looks like a snail trying to chase his own tail. So I mainly tried to grab guys I see with good upside, since there's no way you can win a 20-team league with average players. A player like Kevin Smith fits perfectly. His upside in the Lions offense is out of this world, but of course he could be hurt walking to the bathroom.
So that was my "strategy" going into this monstrosity of a league! -CG
My strategy heading into the draft was to try and grab the best player available, no matter the position. My main focus was to grab an elite QB within the first two rounds (which goes against my typical draft strategy), just because of the scarcity of starting QBs within a 20-team league. I had pick 1.12, so I was going to draft one of the top-4 QBs and I ended up landing Stafford with my first pick. Within the draft, there were going to be long gaps between next picks, so I was realistic in thinking that there were going to be no sleepers and to just adapt and adjust throughout. If there was someone I liked and thought was a good value, no matter the round, I had to consider taking him because the chance of that player getting back to you was slim to none.
I usually try to lock up two RBs within the first three rounds, but I was steadfastly determined to get an elite QB. At my pick in the second, I went WR just because of the roster requirements of starting three in such a deep league. Roddy was the best WR at that spot; I was targeting Marshall, but he went a few picks before me. Rounds 2-3 saw the rest of the second and third-tier QBs get snatched up pretty quickly; at that point, again, I was going to try and get the best player available. I noticed that Dez was dropping and he was my target, but he, like Marshall, went a few spots before me. So I grabbed Bush, which I thought was decent value in a PPR, but in no way would I recommend him as a RB1 in any standard league. I tried to round out my starting lineup with the next few picks: DeSean Jackson, Mark Ingram, Rashad Jennings and Owen Daniels.
My depth is lacking, but so is everyone else's. I did land some of my favorite WR sleeper targets in Andre Roberts and Josh Gordon, as I just need Roberts to hold off Michael Floyd throughout the season for snaps. I also thought Ronnie Brown was a decent late round flier in the event of another Ryan Mathews injury this season. All in all, the team turned out a little better than expected. We'll see, but it was definitely a fun draft. -MW
My strategy for this draft was pretty simple: Stick to my draft board with the most severe conviction, and try not to waiver for any players who are personal favorites (and who would be a reach). In a 20-team league, there were huge gaps between picks and it was easy to miscalculate on players "falling back" to you. If my board indicated someone was the BPA, or offered good value, I generally took them.
As a strong believer of drafting RB-RB in Rounds 1 and 2, I was pleased to see a three-down back in Trent Richardson on the board for me at 1.13. Then the flurry of QB picks made me take Eli Manning at 2.08 as I didn't want to be left with a middle-of-the-road guy, and felt Manning was the safer bet than Vick. Starting three WRs then meant I wanted to flesh out the receiving options on my roster with the next few picks, so I went WR-WR-WR and picked Demaryius Thomas, Miles Austin and Denarius Moore in Rounds 3-5.
I had a few sleepers and deep sleepers noted down that myself and other PFF staffers like in 2012, so I also made sure to grab a few of those like Kyle Rudolph, Leonard Hankerson, Shane Vereen and Dwayne Allen to fill out the back-end of my roster. I was frustrated to miss on Tebow and Lance Kendricks in the late rounds as bench options, but overall I felt I assembled a solid looking starting roster with potential on the bench. -RM
We went with Cam Newton as our rock. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford were already off the board. We could have picked a questionable running back like Jamaal Charles, but we'd rather have something solid to go on.
We love the potential with our WR1 Brandon Marshall this season, with Jay Cutler throwing him the ball again and a super easy schedule. A big score for us that sent everyone groaning in the chat room was the Aaron Hernandez TE pick. We also added Jacob Tamme for our WR/TE flex spot. To us, he was the best WR/TE available on the board at the time. Taking that sleeper off the board made the position that much thinner for the other teams. Beanie Wells was a bit of a gamble, but at that point in the draft, he was the only starter left on the board. His knee looked pretty good the other night, so hopefully he will hold up for most of the year.
We strayed from our normal draft creed and took a defense in the eighth round, but it is the Niners, who project to be the best defense in the league by just about everybody on planet Earth. With this many teams, the waiver wire is super thin and we don't want to mess around with trying to get a different starting unit every week.
Overall, we're very pleased with our squad and think we'll be in the hunt for a title, though it doesn't get any tougher than a 20-team league of fantasy football experts. -J&JS
In a league of this size, my draft strategy was to anchor my team at the four skill positions and then fill in the blanks. While QB is very important in larger leagues like this, RB is so thin this season that I decided to go with Forte at 1.15. I was pretty surprised Gronk fell to me at 2.06 and gladly snatched him up. Jeremy Maclin in the third is a high-floor guy with 100-catch upside — and speaking of upside, I took my QB, Robert Griffin III, in the fourth.
The league format allows you to start up to three TEs, so with my options thin elsewhere, I grabbed two more TE1s in Fred Davis and Jared Cook. Austin Collie in the eighth is admittedly a big gamble, but with this group of owners you have to be willing to roll the dice on upside. And yes, I did take the last starting QB on the board in round 13 when I selected the incomparable Mark Sanchez. Several showers later, and I still feel dirty about that one. -JR
You have to be prepared to make sacrifices in a 20-team league. No one is going to be strong at every position. This draft was all about deciding what you were willing to forgo.
Touchdown passes are worth six points in this league, so quarterbacks flew off the board quickly. But this league also requires you to fill 11 lineup spots every week, and with that many weekly starters the value of a starting quarterback is diluted. I was willing to forgo a top quarterback in order to load up at what I perceive to be a critical position in this league: Wide receiver. You start three every week, and you can start up to five depending on how you use the two flex spots. You can't afford to suck at a position from which you derive so many of your starters.
I had to seize the opportunity to grab a good running back with my first pick, and Marshawn Lynch served me well in this league last year. I don't think he'll be suspended, so I had no reservations about taking him with pick No. 16. Then I hit the WR position hard with my next three picks. AJ Green, Julio Jones and Andre Johnson were taken in front of me in the second round, so I grabbed Larry Fitzgerald, the second-ranked receiver on my board despite the Cardinals' QB woes. In the third and fourth rounds, I went for Antonio Brown and Eric Decker, who both seem headed for big years. DeAngelo Williams fell to me late in the fifth round, and in the sixth I finally took my quarterback, Carson Palmer. My biggest regret is passing on Anquan Boldin in the fifth round, opting instead for Jonathan Dwyer. Though I like Dwyer, Boldin was a rock-solid value at that point, and I would have felt more comfortable with him than I do with Randy Moss, whom I grabbed early in the next round. Tight end was another position of sacrifice for me; I'm hoping to wring one more productive season out of Dallas Clark.
With only four bench spots, there's going to be a great deal of churn at the bottom of everyone's rosters, so I was willing to take some aggressive swings on sleepers with my later picks. If one of them comes through early on, great. If not, time to start churning the bottom of the roster. Two of the long-shot bets are Indy's Vick Ballard and Detroit's Joique Bell, intriguing talents trying to stake claims in unsettled backfields. -PF
When it comes to unconventional leagues, all your strategies go out the door. In the Fantasy Pros Invitational there are 20 teams, with 11 starters each. There's no such thing as a sleeper, but potential for plenty of busts. Risks will be made and for those fortunate enough to get the reward, they will be deemed the best of the best. Glad I'm a part of this league, with all eyes on us in the fantasy sports industry. -PG
(Ed. note: I don't think I have a blurb from Dave, but I can't say that with absolute certainty. There were lots of blurbs flying around in the days after the draft. In any case, I'm guessing that Dave is happy with his team. People who draft Julio Jones generally seem happy. Dave is a delightful in-draft chatter, if you were wondering. Follow the man on Twitter. He's a legend in the business, a terrific gamer).
Well, I was relatively happy with the way things went in Rounds 1-9, considering my draft slot. The final rounds of this draft were painful, as other owners emptied my queue as quickly as I could fill it. I wanted Vick Ballard, Rod Streater, Russell Wilson, Dwayne Allen and various others, but got none of 'em. I'll need either Randall Cobb or Harry Douglas to be not-terrible if I'm going to make another playoff run. Both receivers are tied to excellent offenses and terrific QBs, so there's a chance.
I seem to draft Ryan Williams and/or David Wilson in most leagues, though I have no direct connection to Virginia Tech. It's just one of those things. Those two both have talent to spare, and they're involved in committee-ish arrangements with fragile backfield partners. We just had the Wilson discussion a few days ago. Draft, wait, enjoy.
My tight end situation is dreadful, although there's at least some hope for Tony Moeaki. The Chiefs had big plans for him before last year's ACL injury. If this would have been a standard-sized league, I probably would have taken Jimmy Graham with one of my first two picks. But the 20-team thing was a problem; it was miserable watching a dozen running backs fly off the board before I had a chance to pick. If I'd known going in that I could have snagged Peyton Hillis and Frank Gore in Rounds 3-4, then I would have taken Graham and Green at the top.
Cutler? Love him. You should, too. -AB
With my first pick at No. 20 overall, I knew I had a choice to make: Play catch up at running back, overdraft a wide receiver, or take a QB I feel is a top-five guy this year — and who, if he proves me correct, gives me a shot to win every week. I did that with Matt Ryan, a guy with incredible upside when one considers the new uptempo offense, his remarkable 1-2 WR combo, his quality secondary options (Jacquizz Rodgers, Tony Gonzalez, Harry Douglas), and his already solid 2011 campaign (29 TDs). I've said on the Cafe that I'd take Ryan over Cam Newton this year, and I'm even putting him right there with Matthew Stafford after seeing him a bit in the preseason.
With my other 1/2 pick, I was happy to nab Jimmy Graham, a player that gives me an enormous advantage at tight end in a 20-team league. Starting tight ends in our league currently include Scott Chandler, Tony Moeaki, Kellen Winslow, Dallas Clark and Marcedes Lewis, while a few others are on rosters as potential flex plays. By starting Graham every week, I give myself a great shot at starting with a 10-point advantage in almost any match-up.
In keeping with the theme of making up for a RB/WR deficiency, I took David Akers and the Pittsburgh defense before runs on the positions started. I'm the first guy to de-emphasize the importance of a kicker and to play match-ups on defense, but in this format, I like the stability these guys provide, letting me focus on finding gold at RB and WR rather than worry about who I'm starting at each position each week.
Going QB/TE with my first two picks meant I'd be hurting at running back and receiver. However, I was happy to land Ben Tate with pick 100, and he should provide RB2 numbers for me even as Houston's backup, while potentially giving me a stud RB1 if something happens to Arian Foster. I'll have Rashard Mendenhall in the second half to help with a playoff push, and as long as Jonathan Stewart doesn't disappear, I think I'm OK at running back.
Stevie Johnson provides a reliable presence at receiver for me, while Titus Young is a breakout candidate if he usurps Nate Burleson early on. I love Jerome Simpson this season, and I'm happy to wait a few weeks for him to serve his suspension, as he and Kyle Rudolph should elevate the Minnesota passing attack. Peyton Manning locked on to old buddy Brandon Stokley at times this preseason, and if Stokley is indeed the regular slot man for the Broncos, I think he's worth starting every week. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet give me a couple guys to start while I wait for my bench to get healthy and return from suspension. Cole Beasley is a flier that will wind up cut if he isn't the WR3 for Dallas early on. -RJW