Draft Review: The Roto Arcade Pro-Am

As most of you know, playing in a fantasy league alongside real-life fantasy experts is a hopeless undertaking. HOPELESS. Zero probability of success. Like challenging a group of bears to a moose-eating contest. Not recommended. You couldn't possibly win. You'd be humiliated. And lucky to survive.

I mean ... we're experts. We only get these jobs because we've each won thousands of leagues, beating tens of thousands of regular humans like yourself.

So please, don't think for an instant that you can handle any of us. I doubt you'd even win a fantasy medal. Spare yourself the embarrassment. Stay away. That's the best advice I can give you.

But still, for whatever reason, some of you seem to think you could hold your own in a league filled with accredited fantasy professionals. Because you're delusional. Thus, the Roto Arcade Pro-Am was created.

The Pro-Am is a 14-person league involving seven fully licensed fantasy gurus...

Mike Clay, Pro Football Focus
John Paulsen, 4for4
Allie Fontana, Fantasy Football Confidential
Andy Behrens, Oprah Magazine
Chet Gresham, The Fake Football
Ladd Davies, Mr. Fantasy Freak, Late Round QB
Liz Loza, The Fantasy Football Girl

...and seven mortals who are about to get stomped.

Our group of non-experts includes a dude from Argentina, two New Yorkers, one Canadian, a person named Grant who asks 45 Twitter questions per day, and this guy Jerome who auto-drafted because computers are hard. We also invited TedBell, Arcade commenting treasure. The league settings aren't too odd — one QB, one flex, 0.25 PPR — so our draft results should look something like a normal league, if you drafted in early June (which of course is a terrible idea). Of course the real goal here is to simply take a snapshot of pre-camp fantasy values.

If you keep scrolling, you'll find full results below with comments from most of the Pro-Am participants. Feel free to dismiss or deride commentary as you see fit. Let's begin at the top, with thoughts from three of the Pro-Am's ams...

Mississauga: My strategy going into the draft was to draft running backs who are The Man on their teams, since most teams seem to incorporate a committee philosophy. I also looked to draft high risk/high reward players, because even if a guy does not work out, I feel like I can adequately replace them on the waiver wire. I wanted to grab a TE very late, but due to technical issues, I had Vernon Davis drafted for me. In the end I didn’t grab a kicker at all. Instead, I took an extra running back (Marcel Reece), with the hopes that he could emerge through injury or performance.

My biggest gamble was Ryan Mathews. At that point in the draft, I felt that he was one of the few running backs left on the board that wasn’t in a RBBC situation. If he stays healthy...

(Ed. note: BWAHAHAHA.)

...he could possibly reach his 2011 status, when he was one of the better plays in fantasy. I still believe in the talent. That was a gamble I was willing to take. -Kenneth, owner of the Leaftors

Orange: In my opinion, drafting the No. 2 spot in a 14-team league is not necessarily ideal – after your first pick, it’s a long way back down before you get a shot at another player. I typically go into a draft hoping to snag a top flight QB, RB and WR in the first couple of rounds, in no particular order. I just try to gauge my draft order based on the players that are moving off of the board. I don’t tend to draft RB-heavy, trying to be a little more rounded. Obviously, I was looking to choose a top RB first in Arian Foster. Outside of him, I’m aware of the fact that my RBs are definitely weak and need work A LOT of work. Regardless of what people may say about Peyton Manning, his playing ability is solid and he will always move the ball. Contract issues aside, Victor Cruz will produce throughout the year. I believe Torrey Smith will shine a bit more this year and need to see where things go with my remaining WRs. Eli Manning likes to throw, and I hope that pays off in picking up Brandon Myers.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never walked out of a draft with a super strong team, but I tend to play the wire well. This team is definitely a work in progress and I already have a couple changes planned, once waivers clear. Needless to say, should be an interesting season and it’s one I am definitely looking forward to! -Lexie, CodeOrange, one of NYC's finest power-drinkers

Ball: Playing in a 0.25 PPR league allows me to almost treat this as a standard draft — thanks for that Behrens, I’m not a big fan of PPR. I attempted to load up with running backs in the early rounds. I went RB in Rounds 1-3, with Jamaal Charles, Frank Gore and Le’Veon Bell. By the time I had to pick in R4, Eric Decker was the available WR with the most upside so I snagged him. In Antonio Brown and Anquan Boldin, I got two WRs that will get extra targets with Wallace gone (Miami) and Crabtree injured. So I hope this translates into a decent receiving corps.

Tony Romo was my initial target in R6, but as he was picked, I drafted Vereen. I really liked this pick; I feel vereen could turn into a potential top 30 RB. With Romo gone, decided to wait until R9 to go after my QB (Eli). I got Heath Miller late (R13), meaning I have three Steelers starting on my team, which I don’t much like. But I tried to draft for as much value as possible with each pick; you can always trade and work the wire later on. Also, I have five players on bye in Week 9. Guess I know when I’ll be taking my vacation.

But really, I’m just an Amateur from Argentina going against the Pros, so what do I have to lose? -Mauro, drafter from a foreign land

Team Bell: It’s pretty great to be included in this Pro-Am thing, so thanks. I had the fourth pick. It's widely recognized that 4 is the most dominant and influential numeral ever, and that most definitely played a big role. It clearly put some added pressure on the other players in the room. I ended up drafting some RBs, a TE, and a few WRs. I got a QB. Then another QB later I did a [expletive] load of drafty stuff. I didn’t take a kicker or a D/ST, though, because it’s silly to draft those positions. I’m not giving any roster space to one of those [expletive]s. Not when I can dial up Rod Streater in the 14th round instead.

In closing, it seems appropriate for me to say that my draft was flawless and that anyone reading this just got a free blueprint on how to dominate their league this year. You’re welcome. -Ted

Mike Clay: I came away very pleased with my draft. Picking fifth, I simply drafted whoever was left out of what I feel is a "Big Five" atop the RB rankings. I missed on Doug Martin by one slot, but I'm content with CJ Spiller. Especially in a 14-teamer, I wanted to get another running back in the next round, but Demaryius Thomas was the last name left on my second WR tier, and was too good to pass up. I was able to land DeMarco Murray in third round, fortunately; I chose him over David Wilson. I was shocked to land Rob Gronkowski at 52nd overall. Even if he misses a few games, combining him with a replacement-level player still gives me a major advantage at the position.

I also felt Mike Wallace falling to 61st overall was a major value, especially as my No. 2 wideout. There's a pretty clear "Top 12" quarterbacks this year and I picked the last of the 12 in Tony Romo in the sixth round. From there, I mostly went for upside/breakout candidates with the likes of Gio Bernard, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Coby Fleener. Fred Jackson is my Spiller handcuff. Turbin was a late-round stash which would pay dividends in the event of a Lynch preseason injury. -Clay

ABC: Running back is a thin spot this year, so I went with Alfred Morris at Pick 6. It was between him or Marshawn Lynch, and I figure that Beast Mode is aging, and has to hit a wall somewhere. That's this year. My biggest gamble was taking a stud WR over a much needed second RB. I rolled the dice on the Baltimore backfield, hoping Rice will lose time to my RB, Bernard Pearce.

One of my late pick-ups, a guy on no one's radar, was Pittsburgh wide receiver Markus Wheaton. Look out for him. He'll step right up and provide a Mike Wallace-like threat. I was happy to select Jonathen Baldwin late, as well. He has no Matt Cassel to deal with, plus Bowe and Charles will grab the attention of opposing defenses. He's ready to emerge. -Grant F., owner of ABC, notorious Twitter pest

JP Inc.: Going into Monday's draft, I wanted to employ a "Melting Pot" strategy: Take consistency, sprinkle in some sleepers, add a lot of youth, and you got yourself a team. You must take risks, young padawan. With everyone and their mothers taking RBs in Round 1, I went against the grain and drafted Calvin Johnson. This guy is the best receiver in the league, and was only outscored by 3 Fantasy RBs last year. Did everyone except me forget that the NFL is a pass-first league? Apparently. In the second and third, with all top RBs gone, I took Drew Brees and Marques Colston. Brees was fantasy's top player last year, and with the return of Sean Payton, things are only looking up for the Saints. I would have to say my biggest regret is BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Diminished speed and emaciated yards-per-carry numbers make for a bad fourth round pick.

The sixth round saw arguably my most intriguing pick. Isaiah Pead is a bargain, especially since he won't have to contend wiht S-Jax for carries. Expect him to have a big year. My sleeper pick of the draft, and possibly the year, is Vincent Brown. Brown is finally healthy and has major upside. He is young and ready to take away a starting spot from 31-year-old Malcom Floyd. The Chargers will be pass heavy and I expect this kid to break-out in 2013.

With two-plus months to go before the start of the season, anything can still happen. Rosters will change, players will get hurt, sleepers may step up. I think my team has a solid core with tons of upside. Let's see if my record can reflect that. If so, I will talk smack till the cows come home. See you on the waiver wire... -Paul R., Yahoo! commissioner of distinction

Paulsen: Knowing that the league is fractional PPR, and knowing we can start three running backs at a time, I planned to draft RBs early and often. I did just that, snagging Ray Rice and Stevan Ridley in the first two rounds. In the third round, there were still a number of likable RBs on the board, so I elected to draft Percy Harvin, who should be productive in Seattle. In the fourth, it was a tough choice between Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory, but I figured I'd have Sproles on tons of PPR teams this year, so I took Ivory due to his upside.

Danario Alexander has the most potential of the WRs in the fifth and, while I wanted to continue to load up on wideouts, I was sidetracked in the sixth by a QB run. I drafted Andrew Luck so I wouldn’t end up with Eli/Big Ben. I like the value of Andre Brown in the seventh, a player with a nice shot to finish in the top-25. Thin at wide receiver, I drafted Michael Floyd, who should build on a good finish in 2012. I also took Brandon LaFell in the 11th; he was the No. 35 WR on a per-game basis last season. For some reason I took three TEs — I love Jordan Cameron and Rob Housler as sleepers. I'm hoping I'll be able to trade Jermichael Finley away for WR depth after all three tight ends blow up in Week 1. -JP, ranking accuracy legend

Allie: My going-in draft strategy for the Roto Arcade Pro-Am was pretty simple: Grab running backs and wide receivers in the earlier rounds, wait on a quarterback and be prepared to work the waiver wire. After happily using my first two picks on LeSean McCoy and Julio Jones — both top-5 potential fantasy finishers at their positions — I selected the PPR-friendly Reggie Bush (3.09) and Danny Amendola (4.06) as my RB2 and WR2 respectively. Bush should see many opportunities to wreak havoc in space for the pass-happy Lions, while Amendola has a chance to up his game considerably in Wes Welker’s former role for the Patriots. Last year's waiver wire surprise, Cecil Shorts (6.06), fits the bill as a playmaking WR3/flex option with upside. Though the two-game suspension tempers Josh Gordon’s fantasy outlook at bit, I couldn’t say no to the Browns codeine-slurping bad boy with my pick at 7.09. I still like Gordon as a 2013 breakout candidate.

The fantasy arrow was pointing up for Vick Ballard (5.09) as Indy’s starter less than a week ago, that is until Ahmad Bradshaw visited the Colts and contract negotiations got underway. I’m not ready to write off Ballard just yet, but he’s a guy who needs volume to deliver fantasy goodness, and Bradshaw’s presence lowers his ceiling to RB3/flex at best (at least until AB’s feet act up). I have a tendency to speed-date tight ends, and this season’s first rose goes to the talented-yet-underachieving, underused/misused former Titan Jared Cook (8.06). Cook will be given every chance to succeed with the Rams, and I like his breakout potential as a favorite target of Sam Bradford.

I zigged when others zagged during a Round 6 position run, and by the time it was over, 12 quarterbacks were off the board. Rolling the fantasy dice on Michael Vick — even with a late pick at 9.09 in a 14-teamer — is risky business, given all the ifs that surround him. If he lands the starting gig, if he stays healthy, if he substantially reduces the number of turnovers, and if he releases the ball more quickly, etc. On the other hand, Vick's upside is undeniable; I like the talented supporting cast around him and his potential to thrive in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense. If (there’s that word again) Vick can pull it together, then the riskiest pick of my draft could also be the one that pays the biggest dividend. I grabbed Baltimore’s $120M man in Round 12, just in case Vick isn’t Philly’s Week 1 starter. -AF

Loaf: Gotta say, it was nice to have the league's only auto-drafter picking in front of me, because I'm familiar with the quirks of Yahoo!'s auto-pick logic. (It sketches in your starting roster before addressing bench spots. Thus, Gostkowski in R10.) I've landed Steven Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald in nearly all early drafts and mocks; those two find themselves in much better situations today than they were in a year ago. Jackson is the featured back in a Tecmo offense — you'll recall that a zombified version of Michael Turner was able to rush for 10 TDs for Atlanta in 2012.

Montee Ball isn't the flashiest runner in the player pool, but he's one of the most accomplished backs in NCAA history and likely the primary ball-carrier for Denver. I totally understand your worries about John Fox and rookie rushers, but I don't think Denver is planning to make Ball a mere committee member. (We drafted this league before McGahee was released. That transaction doesn't exactly hurt Ball's value.) I've managed to select both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin in multiple drafts, so hopefully that ends well. Of course it's possible that I'll simply end up with a pair of 700-yard runners, and I'll start the wrong guy each week. -Behrens

Chet: I went away from my 2013 rule of taking two running backs to start the draft, and it did not go well. I felt good about getting Trent Richardson at Pick 12, and that probably gave me false running back swagger when Jimmy Graham was there at Pick 17. I believe he is very much worth a selection there, but it is extremely difficult to get a No. 2 running back you can somewhat trust. I ended up with Lamar Miller as my number two, and, even though I like his potential, he is a boom or bust pick. So that then left me grabbing leftover wide receivers. So kids, take it from your uncle Chet, wait on tight ends or rue the day.

Overall I like my team enough. Richardson is set up well in Norv Turner’s offense. Graham looks to be healthy and ready for a big year. Miller is a great talent with a high ceiling in what should be a better Miami offense. Hakeem Nicks fell to the 45th pick due to injury/holdout concerns, but he has top-10 ability. Steve Smith is still the main target for Cam Newton, and could be ageless. Matthew Stafford is just one year removed from 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. Tavon Austin is right in Sam Bradford’s slot wheelhouse and could get 80-plus receptions. Ahmad Bradshaw, if healthy, could be a steal in the Colts offense. The Seahawks will be throwing more this season and Sidney Rice is an elite talent who has fallen due to injuries. I’m not a huge fan of Montee Ball’s ability, and Ronnie Hillman has bulked up some in the off season. I think he pushes him for touches. Darrius Heyward-Bey has a slim shot of beating out TY Hilton. And old mopey himself, Jay Cutler, will be in an up tempo offense that should up his attempts by a hundred or so. -Gresham

Ladd: Drafting from the No. 13 slot out of 14, I knew I'd likely have to diverge from my typical RB-heavy early round strategy. As expected, the RBs dominated most of the opening round. With my first pick, I took Matt Forte. I am a fan of his, but in many mock drafts this offseason I'm able to get him as a RB2. In the second round I got AJ Green, my No. 2 ranked WR overall. I was quite happy with this start. But I must say, Chet Gresham turned out to be a thorn in my draft plan's side. One of the most notable thefts came in Round 5, when I had Steve Smith queued up to become my WR3 ... and then The Great Fake Sports Lord stole him the pick before me.

When it was all said and done, I left happy with my team. My biggest risk (but possibly biggest steal) was selecting Darren McFadden as my RB2 in Round 3. My biggest value pick, I feel, was Brian Quick in round 10. I love his upside and he has been "showing out" in OTA's. I'd sum up my team as "high risk/high reward." Especially with my selection of Mikel LeShoure. -Davies

FFGirl: Roughly two hours after having drafted my first fantasy team of the 2013 season, I’m still walking around in haze. Did I really just draft David Wilson two full rounds ahead of Matt Ryan? Was it that crazy to believe Shane Vereen might fall to me in the seventh round? Why did I bother gambling on the Rams' backfield? These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asking myself since participating in the Pro-Am draft.

Going into this draft, I knew I’d have the last pick of the first round and the first pick of the second round. Taking into consideration that owners are required to start three WRs each week, and also accounting for 0.25 PPR, my strategy was to snag a top-15 RB and a top-5 WR with my first two picks. While I wasn’t thrilled with the options at RB, I decided to go with MJD and promised myself that in the third round I’d balance things out with a high-upside selection. From that moment on, this became the “upside draft” for me.

With the exception of Dez Bryant, I eschewed a lot of the bigger name/more reliable talent. Instead, I focused on value (Matt Ryan in the sixth round), taking chances on guys that underwhelmed last season (Jordy Nelson), or players who were working through durability issues (Ryan Broyles). I’m still not certain how I feel about the Zac Stacy pick. I suppose I’d feel better about it if I had selected Daryl Richardson instead of Pierre Thomas three rounds later. That was, undoubtedly, the biggest *headdesk* moment of this draft for me. Overall, however, I’m satisfied with my roster, excited to see who emerges this fall, and already preparing to work the waiver wire with precise alacrity. -Loza

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