Take 14 fantasy experts, add Vegas, auction - chaos ensues

The arrow is still pointing up on Todd Gurley (AP photo)
The arrow is still pointing up on Todd Gurley (AP photo)

The Stopa Shining Armor League is a different kind of fantasy football expert league.

It’s a big-money league (thanks to Mark Stopa, benefactor) and it’s a league about jumbo starting spots (super flex — which strongly encourages two starting quarterbacks — two tight ends, another flex spot) and limited bench space. A modified PPR scoring format is used.

And oh yeah, it’s an auction. And it’s a party that goes down in Las Vegas in mid-July. We can’t post all the photos here, someone would get divorced or arrested.

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The challenge is steeper this year, as we’re at 14 teams and Tank Williams has joined the fray. And the lowest scoring team, cumulative from Weeks 1-13, will be thrown out of the league for 2019 (unless it’s Stopa, the league benefactor; if he finishes last in total points, the relegation rules are ignored and no one is booted).

(Keep in mind teams were not required to fill out their starting roster on draft day; several teams passed on defense and kicker. Each team had $200 mythical dollars to buy 17 players.)

League History:

— 2017: Scott Pianowski over Bradley Evans

— 2016: Jeff Erickson over Bradley Evans

— 2015: Andy Behrens over Chris Liss

— 2014: Andy Behrens over Mike Salfino

— 2013: Dalton Del Don over Scott Pianowski

— 2012: Scott Pianowski over Dalton Del Don

I asked the league members to comment about their strategy, the auction, or anything they wanted. Here’s what they had to say. The final spreadsheet is viewable here.

Jeff Erickson

QB: Carson Wentz 29, Ryan Tannehill 13, Nick Foles 1, Sam Darnold 4
RB: Dalvin Cook 39, Sony Michel 15, Mark Ingram 16, D’Onta Foreman 1, James White 1
WR: T.Y. Hilton 25, Tyreek Hill 23, Jarvis Landry 9, Marqise Lee 4
TE: Greg Olsen 17, Ed Dickson 1
PK: Harrison Butler 1
DST: Steelers 1

Erickson’s Take: Basic strategy – spread the risk, but get at least one workhorse back. Otherwise, I was just trying to be there when the bidding stopped at a perceived value. I messed up with one endgame buy — $4 on Sam Darnold. In this league it’s so hard to hold onto guys and wait for them to play, and I’m already doing that for four games on Mark Ingram. It cost be a number of $2-3 RB or WR type players. Despite that, I’m happy with the team. I think I timed the market well with Wentz, Hill and Hilton.

Team Salfino still views Ben Roethlisberger as a Tier 1 quarterback (AP photo)
Team Salfino still views Ben Roethlisberger as a Tier 1 quarterback (AP photo)

Michael Salfino

QB: Kirk Cousins 30, Ben Roethlisberger 28, Josh Allen 1
RB: David Johnson 47, Nyheim Hines 4, Theo Riddick 2, T.J. Yeldon 1
WR: Adam Thielen 25, JuJu Smith-Schuster 20, Keelan Cole 1, Paul Richardson 1, Michael Gallup 1, Tavon Austin 1, Mohamed Sanu 1
TE: Travis Kelce 28, Jack Doyle 8, Tyler Eifert 1

Salfino’s Take: I used historical bid prices and folded them over my rankings. It’s important to do this with your league, especially if it’s established, so you can have a sense of what the players should be going for. This also demands tier and not numerical averages. For example, I had both Kirk Cousins and Ben Roethlisberger as Tier One QBs but was confident based on what our league pays for QBs 8 and 9 that I could land two under $60.

You need to draft/buy the format and this in case it’s QB and TE. The last thing you want to do in a superflex, two TE league is feel crappy about those now scarce (QBs) and always scarce (TEs) commodities. An auction affords you the opportunity to plan more structurally, so beyond the two top-tier QBs and a plausible TE1, I wanted a difference-making running back. After consulting with my friend and partner in this endeavor, Davis Mattek, we agreed that David Johnson was the best player in fantasy football and we were not going to have to pay for that opinion.

You need to be flexible. I was auctioning alone because an auction is a one-man operation. So while I budgeted $44 for WR in what I think is a super-deep class, it was clear early with the Johnson and Kelce buys that I could go to $50. So I went stars and scrubs at WR instead of spread-the-risk because we starred a lot of $1 types.

I extended myself only for one player: Nyheim Hines when money really mattered. I let Kareem Hunt go for a an extra $2 last year and regretted it. I didn’t want to make a mistake again on a player who we think could be very impactful.

The number of $1 players is a valid criticism of this team. But even the best clubs in this league historically churn about half their roster. So why any premium at all for that half?

Peter Schoenke

QB: DeShaun Watson 32, Dak Prescott 25, Joe Flacco 3
RB: Derrick Henry 18, Kerryon Johnson 12, Marlon Mack 5, Matt Breida 2, Nick Chubb 2, Adrian Peterson 1, Justin Jackson 1, Kalen Ballage 1
WR: Julio Jones 40, Davante Adams 38, Devin Funchess 6, Sammy Watkins 5
TE: Cameron Brate 5, Austin Hooper 4

Schoenke’s Take: I overpaid for Davonte Adams but had extra money I didn’t see better spent elsewhere at the time. When is Aaron Rogers’ clear No.1 target not a first-round worthy player?

I didn’t take a K or D because if you are not taking a top K or D you are better off with a lottery ticket at RB this early when so many injuries can occur in August. I’ll play matchups in FAAB for K and D.

I tried to spend my money at WR where there is a higher floor and take upside plays at RB, while paying up for 2 QBs and avoiding TE where there’s too much injury risk.

Mark Stopa

QB: Aaron Rodgers 40, Tom Brady 34
RB: Jerick McKinnon 30, Kenyan Drake 18, Aaron Jones 6, Jamaal Williams 4, Chris Carson 3
WR: Emmanuel Sanders 7, Randall Cobb 4, Richard Matthews 3, Kelvin Benjamin 2, Geronimo Allison 1, Tyrell Williams 1
TE: Rop Gronkowski 27, George Kittle 14
PK: Jake Elliott 2
DST: Jaguars 4

Stopa’s Take: For all his flaws, Mike McCarthy tends to roll with one running back. Steady if unspectacular Jamaal Williams will get first crack with Aaron Jones suspended for two games. If he’s good/reliable, he’ll keep the job. If not, the more talented runner, Jones, will get his chance. Either way, I like having both guys for $10 total, with one likely to emerge.

Joe Mixon is the big-ticket item in the Brad Evans backfield (AP/John Minchillo)
Joe Mixon is the big-ticket item in the Brad Evans backfield (AP/John Minchillo)

Bradley Evans

QB: Cam Newton 33, Alex Smith 25, Lamar Jackson 3
RB: Joe Mixon 28, Royce Freeman 25, Dion Lewis 15, LeSean McCoy 10, Carlos Hyde 2
WR: Demaryius Thomas 17, Corey Davis 17, Larry Fitzgerald 15, Cole Beasley 1, James Washington 1
TE: Ricky Seals-Jones 5, Antonio Gates 1
PK: Wil Lutz 1
DST: Saints 1

Evans’s Take: The biggest question entering this year’s Stopa exercise was how to approach LeSean McCoy. The crime involved was reprehensible. Still, the case is unresolved as the investigation into what occurred continues. As someone who chases rivers, motors through yellow lights and is willing to consume canned chili past its expiration date, I decided to roll the dice on the controversial back and throw him out with my first nomination at an aggressive yet reasonable price. Oddly, it summoned crickets. Yours truly landed him for $10. Bargain or bust? Due process will ultimately decide.

Most people on social media blasted me for my overall performance. Maybe the generous tequila pours were to blame, but like 99.9 percent of the fantasy community, I’m satisfied with the overall outcome. I price enforced, played the patience game and scored some rock-solid deals. The Joe Mixon purchase veered greatly from my general feeling about the RB, but everyone has a price and at $28 the volume was too much to resist. My tight end deficiency (Ricky Seals-Jones/Antonio Gates) is obvious, but everyone has limitations in a 14-team league. With a strong trio of starting WRs (Larry Fitzgerald/DT/Corey Davis), suitable RB depth to weather the Shady storm (Mixon/Royce Freeman/Dion Lewis/Carlos Hyde) and three multidimensional QBs (Cam Newton/Alex Smith/Lamar Jackson), my odds of relegation currently stands at +150.

Then again, maybe it’s the fermented agave talking.

Dalton Del Don

QB: Blake Bortles 18, Derek Carr 15
RB: Todd Gurley 55, Alvin Kamara 44, Jay Ajayi 21, Rex Burkhead 11, Latavius Murray 1
WR: Marvin Jones 11, Will Fuller 7, Tyler Lockett 3, Nelson Agholor 2, Ted Ginn 1
TE: David Njoku 5, Ben Watson 3, Mike Gesicki 1
PK: Robbie Gould 1
DST: Packers 1

Del Don’s Take: What a fun auction to be at in Las Vegas, with an excitable and inebriated auctioneer to boot. I entered with a clear plan in mind, fully expecting to buy Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara (Kareem Hunt would’ve been my fallback), spending down on quarterbacks (it still pains me that I passed on Jimmy G at $29) and then filling out my roster with specific targets in mind (Jay Ajayi, Rex Burkhead, Will Fuller, Tyler Lockett, Ben Watson). In other words, this wasn’t my usual agnostic auction – I went after specific targets and entered with a direct plan. We’ll see how it goes, but I imagine relying on Bortles/Carr will be equally as fun as Gurley/Kamara. This auction produced some wild teams, as it appears a few owners misunderstood the new relegation rule and actively tried to finish last.

Chris Liss

QB: Jared Goff 26, Jameis Winston 16, Sam Bradford 2, Josh McCown 1
RB: Le’Veon Bell 49, Leonard Fournette 38, Isaiah Crowell 3
WR: Odell Beckham 41, Robby Anderson 7, Marquise Goodwin 6, Josh Doctson 2, D.J. Moore 2, Martavis Bryant 1, Julian Edelman 2
TE: Tyler Kroft 1, Garrett Celek 1
PK: Justin Tucker 2

Liss’s Take: Went in with the idea of buying 3 expensive position players early and two QBs, spending most of my money. Then holding into some amount late to control the end game. Heavy boozing couldn’t break my resolve. I got Lev Bell, Beckham and Fournette early – totally agnostic, not targeting any of them. Was happy to get Winston cheap, Goff at market and hit my targets Goodwin and Anderson late. Also got Edelman and Crowell dirt cheap. Something had to give though, and that was TE. Two $1 scrubs, though I like Kroft as an Eifert fade.

Scott Jenstad

QB: Jimmy Garoppolo 29, Marcus Mariota 27, Josh Rosen 2
RB: Kareem Hunt 42, Tarik Cohen 14, Tevin Coleman 6, Spencer Ware 2, Corey Clement 2
WR: Michael Thomas 32, Alshon Jeffery 14, Chris Hogan 10, Anthony Miller 2, Calvin Ridley 2, Kenny Stills 1
TE: O.J. Howard 8, Vernon Davis 1
DST: Ravens 2

Jenstad’s Take: I thought the room overall was really solid with very few bad bids or extreme values at any point. I executed my plan pretty well, but in a 14-teamer where you have to have two quarterbacks there is always going to be weaknesses. With two tight ends starting, I was a bit off on my budget for TE and the second- and third-tier guys I targeted went a bit higher than I wanted so I ended up being weak at that position; not ideal needing two every week, but cant be covered everywhere in a 14 teamer and hopefully I can snag a breakout guy early on in free agency. Although if there is a player where having his backup may pay off early in the season, that guy is Jordan Reed, so Vernon Davis might end up being just fine.

Washington thinks it got a steal with second-round pick Derrius Guice (AP/Nick Wass)
Washington thinks it got a steal with second-round pick Derrius Guice (AP/Nick Wass)

Liz Loza

QB: Matthew Stafford 29, Case Keenum 18
RB: Derrius Guice 28, Lamar Miller 13, Devontae Booker 2, Ty Montgomery 1, Doug Martin 1
WR: DeAndre Hopkins 39, A.J. Green 31, Mike Williams 5, Malcolm Mitchell 3, Jordy Nelson 2
TE: Trey Burton 17, Vance McDonald 6, Jake Butt 1
PK: Mason Crosby 1
DST: Rams 3

Loza’s Take: The depth at QB is fantastically rich this year. Yet, strategizing value at the position was oddly challenging given the format. I was equal parts impressed and infuriated by Vlad’s approach. Paying $13 for the Tyrod/Mayfield combo is next-level.

Kevin Payne

QB: Mitchell Trubisky 18, Eli Manning 13, Ryan Fitzpatrick 1
RB: Saquon Barkley 45, Rashaad Penny 20, Bilal Powell 3, Chase Edmonds 1
WR: Mike Evans 28, Allen Robinson 16, DeVante Parker 7, Kenny Golladay 3, Jordan Matthews 2, Allen Hurns 2
TE: Jimmy Graham 18, Evan Engram 18, Jaylen Samuels (RB/TE) 2
DST: Chargers 3

Payne’s Take: Last year this draft was quite intoxicating for me; this year was more strategic. I kept with my usual strategy: spend all my budget on the starters and use $1-$2 for everyone else. It worked or so I think. Liss’ team sucks.

Scott Pianowski

QB: Matt Ryan 27, Andy Dalton 13
RB: Jordan Howard 22, Alex Collins 21, Marshawn Lynch 11, Giovani Bernard 1
WR: Antonio Brown 44, Jamison Crowder 9, Robert Woods 6, Sterling Shepard 4, Cooper Kupp 4, Chris Godwin 3
TE: Zach Ertz 23, Charles Clay 4, Jared Cook 3
PK: Stephen Gostkowski 3
DST: Eagles 3

Pianow’s Take: It’s my kind of a roster in a league that’s this deep: boring but efficient. I don’t have to market the team, I just need it to score points consistently.

I’d like to have a little more firepower at quarterback, but Ryan and Dalton both hit the low end of their ranges last year and are strong (positive) regression candidates. I didn’t intentionally go for two Rams receivers but I like them at their prices; heck, I had Golden Tate and Marvin Jones last summer, that worked out fine (though I ultimately traded Tate too cheaply).

Given the requirement that we start two tight ends, I think I took that position an eyelash more seriously than most. But I also know a heavy chunk of anyone’s July roster will be traded or discarded, that’s just how football goes. You’re not supposed to love your team now — not in a room that knows what it’s doing — but you want to feel you can contend. I can contend.

Andy Behrens

QB: Drew Brees 33, Philip Rivers 27
RB: Melvin Gordon 38, Ronald Jones 14, Jordan Wilkins 3, Duke Johnson 1, Austin Ekeler 1
WR: Amari Cooper 21, Brandin Cooks 16, Michael Crabtree 6, Danny Amendola 1, Quincy Enunwa 1
TE: Delanie Walker 16, Kyle Rudolph 15, Austin Seferian-Jenkins 3
PK: Greg Zuerlein 2
DST: Vikings 2

Behrens’s Take: Not only is the Stopa league one of the most challenging in my fantasy portfolio, it’s also the booziest auction in which I’m involved. This enhances its degree of difficulty in no small way. So my first objective was to remain clearheaded throughout the auction, and in this effort I was mostly successful.

The settings in this league generally result in a free agent pool that’s rich in WRs and RBs throughout the season, but extremely light on useful quarterbacks and tight ends. As a consequence, I was determined to land a pair of bankable top-10-ish players at each spot. I’m sure I’ve never entered a Stopa season — even in the years I won the league — feeling as good about my QBs and TEs. I expected to spend a bit less on receivers because the position is plenty deep, but I think I have profit potential with each of my three starters. I’m plenty happy with Melvin Gordon and Ronald Jones at RB, too. (For Jones propaganda, click here.) Here’s hoping Jordan Wilkins can force his way into a legit role in Indy; he was my late-auction lottery ticket.

Entering the auction, I’d considered attempting to buy the Winston/Fitzpatrick combo or Tyrod/Mayfield, so as to lock up the quarterback position from a sneaky-good offense. That seems like a decent approach in a superflex format with plenty of bench spots. Jameis/Fitz went for a combined $17 (not to the same owner), and Tyrod/Baker went for just $13 (to Vlad).

C.J. Anderson’s Carolina contract is loaded with incentive clauses (AP photo)
C.J. Anderson’s Carolina contract is loaded with incentive clauses (AP photo)

Vlad Sedler

QB: Russell Wilson 37, Tyrod Taylor 9, Baker Mayfield 4
RB: Ezekiel Elliott 45, Chris Thompson 5, Chris Ivory 5, C.J. Anderson 4
WR: Doug Baldwin 36, Stefon Diggs 29, Pierre Garcon 5, Dez Bryant 4, Cam Meredith 2
TE: Eric Ebron 8, Luke Willson 2, Gerald Everett 1
PK: Kai Forbath 1
DST: Patriots 3

Sedler’s Take: Rarely do things go as planned in auctions, especially when you’re competing against some of the industry’s sharpest minds. My plan to save money at wideout and target my favorite bargains there was thrown out of the window early when I nabbed a $36 Doug Baldwin and felt compelled to pair him with his partner-in-crime (Wilson: $37). After a $45 Zeke, I slowed my roll a bit and resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be getting some of my top TE targets (Delanie Walker, George Kittle).

I was pleased with the end result though, snagging several of my targets for five bucks or less including C.J. Anderson ($4), Pierre Garcon ($5), Cameron Meredith ($2) and Gerald Everett ($1). Baker Mayfield for four bucks was a must after I spent nine on Tyrod Taylor, locking up my QB2 with the Browns’ duo. After losing David Johnson early last season, I’m expecting some positive regression my way as my tenacious in-season management will give this league of sharps a run for (Stopa’s) money.

Tank Williams

QB: Patrick Mahomes 27, Andrew Luck 24
RB: Devonta Freeman 29, Christian McCaffrey 28, LeGarrette Blount 1, Peyton Barber 1
WR: Keenan Allen 33, Josh Gordon 26, Golden Tate 15, Dede Westbrook 1, DeSean Jackson 1, Christian Kirk 1
TE: Jordan Reed 6, Hayden Hurst 2, Stephen Anderson 1
PK: Matt Prater 1
DST: Texans 2

Tank’s Take: Last year, I sat on the sidelines and sipped vodka during the #StopaShiningArmor auction draft. This year, the crew invited me to participate so I sipped vodka and planned to throw my weight around in Andy Behrens’s lavish, Vegas suite. Once the draft kicked off and the auction vets started throwing out fat stacks for the high profile, fantasy studs, I decided to be a “baller on a budget” – using my little chump change to snatch up value buys with upside. I still have a lot of work to do but I believe my value approach allowed me to build a balanced roster with a higher floor instead of spending big on a few big names while having to fill the rest of my roster with dart throws.

Which roster looks best? Which roster looks weakest? Make your picks known in the comments.

Follow the Yahoo fantasy football crew on Twitter: Andy Behrens, Dalton Del Don, Brad Evans, Matt Harmon, Liz Loza, Scott Pianowski and Tank Williams