In parts one and two of this series, I went over the first six draft slots in the Apex Expert Writers’ Draft (three slots in each article). In case you missed it, Apex invited respected fantasy voices from across the web to participate in an Apex league. Here is my analyses, in a four-part series, of everyone’s teams. Remember: all of these opinions are my own, and the writers had zero input into these analyses. Here is Part Three:
7. JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB)
How I’d Describe His Strategy: Robust. I doubt JJ Zachariason went into this draft saying “I’m going to draft 4 RBs in the first 5 rounds.” But kudos to JJ- he saw how the board was breaking, chose his strategy, and followed through. He still found a way to fill out his starting WR spots with quality considering his RB heavy approach.
Biggest Value: Reggie Bush in the 4th. Getting a guy who finished as RB8 last year at the RB19 spot? Sign me up. I understand that he may not finish top 10 this year because of Joique Bell, but if he’s playing the Darren Sproles role from the Saints’ offense, he may catch even more passes as the designated “space” back. That may be mitigated by his reduction in carries, but I think he’s a steal anywhere from the mid-4th round and later.
Biggest Risk: Ryan Mathews in the 5th. I thought JJ did an excellent job at getting fantastic value at every pick, so I had some trouble picking out a big risk. Now, out of context, this doesn’t make any sense- this is where Mathews is regularly going, and he’s probably a value anywhere from the mid-5th round and on. But locking up your RB4 before your WR2 in a PPR flex league is pretty risky. But if JJ had Colston higher than Wallace, Wright, DeSean, Hilton, Harvin, Edelman, and Randle, he found a way to get extra RB value AND his favorite wideout out of the bunch.
He’s In Trouble If: Colston finally falls off the cliff. I really like Colston as a WR2/3, but one of these days he is going to experience a sharp decline. He showed last year that he still had it, finishing the season on a 96/1,200+/8 pace. Forcing Stills or Boldin as your WR3 may not be terrible, but having Emmanuel Sanders as your WR2 is going to put you at a matchup disadvantage.
He Succeeds If: Vernon Davis can be a top 5 TE. I don’t think this is going to happen because of Davis’ splits when Crabtree is on the field, but JJ has difference makers at the RB and possibly flex slots- if he can win the TE battle, he’s gonna be a contender.
8. Evan Silva (@EvanSilva)
How I’d Describe His Strategy: BPA that turned into Zero RB. I would call this strict Zero RB, but if his tweets are any indication, I know Evan: he’s the kind of guy that likes to make a big draft board, rank players with an emphasis on talent and winning matchups, and sticks to his board. I truly think that the board happened to fall into a Zero RB strategy, and Evan went with it.
Biggest Value: Cam Newton in the late 9th. Again, I’m a late-round QB guy, but there comes a time and place for everyone. And for a high-floor, high ceiling guy like Cam off the board as QB7 (he’s never finished worse than QB4), that could prove to be a matchup-winner in the 9th round. He’s progressing as a passer while arguably improving his weapons this year. The ankle, declining rushing stats, and questionable offensive line are (very fairly) worked into his ADP.
Biggest Risk: Rueben Randle in the early 6th. Like JJ’s team, I had a lot of trouble picking out where Evan reached or got a bad value in his draft. The pro’s on Randle: number 2 on a pass-first offense, biggest target = red-zone scores, good breakout age. The cons? Eli and the offense have looked horrendous so far, and he’s showing Gabbert-like qualities: Sensing pressure that isn’t always there. The Giants could very well be a dumpster-fire this year. But most importantly, Evan loves Randle (as do I) and he made sure to get his guy. That is the bottom line.
He’s In Trouble If: Toby Gerhart isn’t the bellcow we think he’s going to be. Evan spent an early-4th on Gerhart. If you look at his timeline and columns, he loves Gerhart because he’s probably going to have an every-down role on a ball-control offense with an underrated defense. He’s also going to catch passes- something very important in PPR leagues. But if this ends up being more of a committee than we realize, Evan is going to have to pick between starting two of three possibly TD-dependent runners each week: Gerhart, Andre Williams, and Jeremy Hill. We all know how hard TDs can be to predict.
He Succeeds If: Mike Wallace finishes as a top-18 wideout. I have all the confidence in the world in Dez and Jordy to be top 8 wideouts this year. I don’t think taking Cameron in the 3rd was a bad idea. But if Wallace can be even a slightly-worse version of 2013 DeSean Jackson, Evan’s got true difference-makers at arguably every position besides maybe running back. He did a very fine job with his squad.
9. Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL)
How I’d Describe His Strategy: Balanced BPA. Clay did not seem to emphasize going RB or WR heavy- it looks like he simply wanted to fill out a balanced starting lineup. It seems as if he used what positions he already did/did not have as a tiebreaker for his selections. The result: A solid, balanced, value-filled starting lineup.
Biggest Value: Cody Latimer in the late 13th. Again, I understand that this is where his ADP is. But Latimer could really be a difference maker if he sees the field consistently. Yes, that is an “if”, but not one that is so far-fetched. Sanders has been hampered by injuries going back to his college days, and been mediocre when healthy. Welker is probably one concussion away from retirement. Latimer has done nothing but shine in practice, and getting a potential WR3 catching passes from Peyton Manning in the 13th would prove to be very valuable depth.
Biggest Risk: C.J. Spiller in the late 3rd. I love Spiller’s talent, but he may be a trap once again this year. It took Chan Gailey to get the best out of him, and Nate Hackett/Doug Marrone have shown they have no problem making him read the offensive line and banging him between the tackles rather than scheming him into space. The Buffalo backfield smells like the days when people were drafting the much-hyped Ryan Mathews while Mike Tolbert was the one catching the passes and scoring touchdowns. Taking Spiller before Vereen (who Clay admittedly did end up getting in the 4th) and Reggie Bush is a big risk.
He’s In Trouble If: Julian Edelman recedes into mediocrity. I’m not sure if the Pats want Edelman catching 100+ balls again, especially with Gronk and Vereen back on the field. If his receptions look like they are heading for the low 70s, Clay will have to decide between Edelman, Mike Evans, and Brian Hartline each week at his WR3 spot, with worse decisions coming during the bye-weeks. Yikes. The good news? It looks like Edelman has at least secured the starting slot/Welker role.
He Succeeds If: Jason Witten has yet another 85+ catch season. We’ve begun to write off Jason Witten time and time again. Remember when everyone was writing of Tony Gonzalez later in his Falcons career while he kept churning out top-6 seasons? The same thing may be happening with Witten, whose game isn’t based off of speed or agility. With such a solid offensive line, Witten will probably be asked to block even less this year- resulting in more routes run.