Drafting a complete, balanced, competitive fantasy team is hard enough. When you’re drafting against some of the greatest minds in fantasy football, it becomes downright impossible. In the Apex Expert Writers League, rarely did a guy fall into your lap. If you wanted him, you couldn’t count on waiting a round. Your strategy shifted with every pick until the board was picked dry. But all of these writers still found a way to form competitive squads, and I’m going to analyze 3 teams at a time in a 4 part series. All of these opinions are my own, and the writers had zero input into these analyses.
1. Davis Mattek (@Davis Mattek)
How I’d Describe His Strategy: BPA with an emphasis on middle-round breakouts. BPA (best player available) is usually the prevailing strategy in really tough drafts. Oftentimes, the board doesn’t fall the way you want it, enough to adhere to a specific gameplan. But after Davis knocked off the best players off of his board in the early rounds, he attacked young upside with his middle picks. In rounds 5, 6, and 7 he took Cordarrelle Patterson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Jordan Reed respectively- three talented pass-catchers entering their second seasons. While there is plenty of unknown in drafting them, locking up these breakout guys in an expert league is an impressive feat.
Biggest Value: Cordarrelle Patterson in the 5th. Now, I’m not a huge fan of drafting Cordarrelle Patterson in the 3rd/early 4th as a high-end WR2. But in the 5th as WR22 after you’ve drafted 3 running backs? You could do a lot worse. I could easily end up eating my words on him this year.
Biggest Risk: Having Jordan Reed and David Ausberry as only the only tight ends on the roster. You could make a potential argument for Jordan Reed as the 4th best TE in fantasy if you could guarantee 16 games of health. But with four concussions in the past 4 seasons, it’s conceivable one more blow to the head would end his season immediately. When drafting Reed, it’s important to secure a decent TE2. But David Ausberry, while talented, is recovering from a knee scope and is very unproven. Davis may just have to hold his breath on this one.
He’s In Trouble If: Anything negative at all happens to Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, or DeAndre Hopkins. While I think it’s an impressive trio of WRs considering he took 3 RBs in the first 4 rounds, the depth behind them is troubling. During byes, Davis will be forced to start Charles Johnson, Stephen Hill, and Stedman Bailey- guys who may or may not be higher than 4th on the depth chart at WR on their respective teams. If any of them are forced into an every-week role, it could get ugly.
He Succeeds If: Josh Gordon plays the 2nd half of the season. If this happens and Davis can tread water until Week 9, he gets 2013’s top fantasy WR for the rest of the season. All of the sudden, Keenan Allen is his WR2, Patterson his WR3, and can even shift between Hopkins/Sankey/Woodhead at the flex. Combine that with all-world Jamaal Charles and a healthy Jordan Reed, and his team immediately vaults into top-three range.
2. C.D. Carter (@CDCarter13)
How I’d Describe His Strategy: BPA combined with “I Can’t Give Up On Him” syndrome. Consecutively locking up Torrey Smith, Trent Richardson and Dwayne Bowe, Carter could name his team “The Bridge Burners.” C.D. himself describes these picks as receiving the “Dead To Me” discount. While all of these players have failed to live up to expectation in the past (to put it kindly), there comes a time and place for everyone to be drafted. I’m on board the Torrey Smith train with C.D., so I think he needed to lock him up late in the 4th if he wanted him. Other than that, it appears Carter let the draft mostly come to him.
Biggest Value: Mark Ingram in the 13th round. Although this pick continued C.D.’s pursuit of bridge-burners, I think Ingram is a great value here. While he won’t catch many passes, he is the bona finde goal-line and early down back for one of the best offenses in the NFL. He won’t be a 1,000 yard guy, but to get a potential 800 yard, 10 touchdown guy in the 13th as RB53? No downside to taking that plunge.
Biggest Risk: Taking Trent Richardson in the early 5th round. Here is a list of the 5th/6th round running backs C.D. passed up in favor of Trent: Joique Bell, Ryan Mathews, Ben Tate, Pierre Thomas, Lamar Miller, Stevan Ridley, Frank Gore. I could probably find a couple people who would take Trent after ALL of them. But again- this is an experts’ league. If you aren’t taking risks, you don’t belong in the draft. Plain and simple. I’d argue this to anyone: Trent has bigger upside than all of those guys.
He’s In Trouble If: Andre Johnson finally falls off the cliff. Similar to Davis Mattek’s squad, Carter cannot afford to miss on his wideouts this year. This tends to happen when you have one of the first 3 selections in the draft: the wideouts simply aren’t there in the 2nd round. If Andre’s hammy problems were to continue, Fitzpatrick can’t get the ball to him or Kubiak’s loss is more noticeable than meets the eye, this WR corps is stretched. Torrey Smith becomes his WR1, while Bowe and Cooks have to provide his WR2/3 production. Not a good scenario.
He Succeeds If: Dwayne Bowe can achieve low-end WR2 status. Carter didn’t draft Bowe expecting expecting his 2nd career top-2 finish. But if Alex Smith can continue his momentum from late last season in the throwing-downfield department, there is no reason Bowe cannot be a steal in the late 6th round. Besides Charles, who else do they have to throw to? Carter’s RBs are more than solid. If Andre can be a serviceable WR1, Bowe a decent WR2 and have Torrey as his WR3? That would be trouble for the rest of the league.
3. Jonathan Bales (@BalesFootball):
How I’d Describe His Strategy: Robust with an “I Know What I’m Getting” attitude. Bales started out RB-RB-RB, something all of the sudden considered contrarian in many fantasy football circles. Even more contrarian, he took a QB before a wide receiver. But every player Bales started with has seen elite fantasy success in the past. He knows what he’s getting from a healthy Matt Forte. He knows Foster will be elite on a per-game basis. He knows that Doug Martin is going to be the lead back on a run-first offense. He knows Aaron Rodgers is…well Aaron Rodgers. As Bales argues, there is a lot of value in knowing what you are getting.
Biggest Value: Zach Ertz in the 11th. Yet again, tight end is arguably very thin and top-heavy. You could argue you either want to be one of the very first or very last to take a tight end this season. But Bales secured maybe the most buzzed about TE thus far as TE13. Reports out of practice are nothing but shining, and beat writers predict he’s their red zone guy. If Ertz pans out, Bales had his cake and ate it too.
Biggest Risk: Chris Johnson in the 6th. Not only was this his 4th RB in 6 rounds, Johnson is once again one of the most polarizing players in fantasy this season. Evan Silva went as far as to rank him at the end of round 9 in his latest Top 150. As a Titans fan, I’ve felt the sting of Chris Johnson’s apathy, but as your RB4 it’s not terrible. It’s the opportunity cost that is the question here.
He’s In Trouble If: Golden Tate is a complete bust. If you can’t tell, the theme in these three teams is a lack of wide receiver depth. Again, this comes from the draft slot- there is simply no opportunity to take an elite WR or sure-fire WR2 oftentimes. But if Tate cannot at least help Bales stay competitive, it forces two of Tavon Austin, Danny Amendola, and Greg Jennings into an every-week role. Even Rodgers and Forte may not be able to overcome that mountain.
He Will Succeed If: Arian Foster stays healthy. If Arian Foster’s health was not a question, you could argue he and Lacy should be toe-to-toe as RB5 off the board. He’s locked into an every-down role with incompetent backups with a coach who loves to use his RBs in the passing game. Foster is a guy who I may slap myself for passing on every time. At the end of the 2nd with the elite WRs gone, it’s a pick I cannot argue.