By Dustin Pritchard, 7.22.2013
You’ve started doing some research for your draft in a month or so, and so you are probably also participating in Mock Madness, a term I just coined right now (you’re welcome America) to explain the unique digital exodus millions of people make to their computers to do Fantasy Football Mock Drafts. This phenomenon generally occurs between mid July and late August. Mock drafts are essential to gaining experience with your league’s draft interface and finding out where to draft players you like. If you are mock drafting across multiple platforms (Yahoo, ESPN, and FF Calculator are all good) then you notice that managers seem to value players differently on each site. This is in most part due to the default player rankings, which cause computer drafters to autopick the highest ranked players and the more casual managers allow these default rankings influence and dictate their draft strategy, eventually affecting the Average Draft Position.
Information is key, and the more you have the more powerful you are on draft day. Our goal here is take advantage of current ADP values. Let’s take a look at players to avoid and players to cash in on based on Yahoo’s current ADP data.
Elite QBs – Aaron Rodgers (12.2), Drew Brees (18.5), and Peyton Manning (25.4) are the best of the best, but as you’ve probably read there is a lot of depth at QB, so it doesn’t make sense to draft one before the 4th or 5th round when you can get Matt Stafford, Tony Romo, or Andrew Luck in the 7th or later.
Mike Vick – Eagles HC Chip Kelly will take his time to make a decision on the team’s starting QB, but keep your eyes on The Folesman (Nick Foles) who has reportedly shown improved accuracy and a quicker release in his 2nd NFL off-season. Reporters close to the team believe he actually has the leg up right now in this battle. Some have even gone so far as to say the Vick isn’t even a lock to make the 53 man roster. He’s not worth a 12th rounder, especially with guys like Sam Bradford, Jay Cutler, Josh Freeman, and Carson Palmer generally going at least 3 rounds after him.
Vick Ballard – If the Colts were happy about NFL sophmore RB Vick Ballard (103.6), they would not have brought in the talented Ahmad Bradshaw, who is going to get all the pass down work and the bulk of the carries. Ballard is workman like and consistent, but the talent and experience of Bradshaw will rise to the top of the depth chart and Ballard owners will be hoping for the occasional vultured goal line TD. With Shane Vereen, Giovani Bernard, Jonathan Stewart going later, pass on Vick.
Michael Turner – I want to be clear in regards to the Burner, DO NOT DRAFT HIM. Turner did not at all pass the eye test in 2012, looking slow and fading down the stretch. As a current NFL Free Agent, there is no reason to believe that he will get an opportunity that will pay off for owners planning on taking a flyer on the former solid fantasy play at his current 12th round ADP, or at any time for that matter. A good rule of thumb is to try to draft guys that actually have a job in the NFL. Do not draft any current free agents. That includes Willis McGahee and Brandon Lloyd. Until these players get a job, they are completely worthless to your fantasy team.
Wes Welker – We hate his current 44.2 ADP. In the 5th round we are not looking for a guy lucky to get 1000 yards and 6 TDs. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are two very talented young WRs that Peyton has a history with. We like Welker the player, but as good as the offense will be, he’ll have to do all of his damage between the 20s. As the 18th WR off the board, Welker is not going to see the amount of targets he did in New England, and not being a player that can turn a short catches into long gains, he’s going to have a tough time putting up the fantasy numbers you expect.
Sidney Rice – This is a talented, athletic WR with size. He’s a deep threat for sure, but the problem is the situation. Seattle is a team predicated on strong defense and running the football. QB Russell Wilson emerged in the second half of 2012, but with the Hawks trading for the dynamic Percy Harvin, and a favorite target of Wilson’s, Golden Tate, on the roster, there are too many mouths to feed. Sidney has a 13th round ADP, spend your pick there on Michael Floyd, Emmanuel Sanders, Ryan Broyles there. Guys not only with the talent, but also the set up to throw down consistent WR3/flex type numbers.
Patriots TEs – Rob Gronkowski (51.3) has serious back issues that date back to his time at Arizona. Until we’re sure he’s not missing a significant portion of the season. 6 games, or almost half of the fantasy football regular season, would be too much. Let somebody else have the headache. Aaron Hernandez (53.0) is connected to a murder I’m not sure if you heard so we’re not drafting him ever again. Jake Ballard is going at pick 126.9, but for our money we’re not even sure he’ll be the main benefactor of losses to these two TEs. One could make a case that Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Kembrell Thompkins, or Michael Jenkins could be the biggest benefactor, but only time will tell. We’re not taking the flyer on Ballard.
Tony Romo – 10th Round ADP. Are you serious Yahoo!? That is way too low for a QB in the prime of his career with some of the best toys to throw to (Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Miles Austin, Dwayne Harris). He’s a perennial top 10 QB and you will likely turn a profit in the 9th or 10th.
Jay Cutler – We cannot say enough good things about Cutler’s situation heading into 2013. He’s in a contract year and will be highly motivated. The Bears have been quietly improving Cutler’s arsenal. Over the last 2 seasons Chicago brought in Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett and drafted Alshon Jeffrey. The O Line remains a work in progress, but they didn’t bring in offensive guru Marc Trestman if they weren’t planning a dramatic shift for the team. The sheer volume of throws Cutler will be asked to attempt gives him, unlike others drafted near him, legitimate top 10 upside. A current 14th round ADP is too good to pass up. You’d still make money on him using a 12th round pick, but knowing his ADP means you can take another player there and still likely get Cutler in the 13th. Expect his ADP to rise once preseason games begin and people start to see what the Bears are going to do.
David Wilson/ Darren Sproles/ Reggie Bush – This is shocking. Wilson (72.0), Sproles (86.1) and Bush (67.7). Giants, New Orleans, Detroit. Three of the elite NFL offenses. We’re not sure why they are being drafted so low, but each of these highly talented backs can be had after the 6th round. We don’t mind “reaching” a bit for any of them. Feel free to take one of these backs if they are there in the 4th round. Out of the group we prefer David Wilson, but all are top 20 RB options and would make a decent RB2 if you only have one RB going into the 4th.
Shane Vereen – His ADP has been on the rise lately, but at 112.3 you can’t miss. With the TE situation being what it is in New England, Danny Woodhead gone, and a fragile Danny Amendola headlining a WR group that also includes standouts Michael Jenkins and Julian Edelman and a few unproven rookies, it will be hard for Vereen not to fall into top 30 RB numbers. If Ridley gets hurt, he will be a top 20 RB. He will have enough touches that we can’t for fantasy purposes consider him just a handcuff. He is more than that. The only thing you have to be worried about with Vereen is him missing games with injuries, which he has some history with. Fortunately for drafters, most RBs get hurt and miss games sometime or another, so with the likely workload on an elite offense, roll the dice on Vereen if you can get him in the 10th round, two rounds earlier than his current 12th round ADP.
St. Louis RBs – Fortunately, Rams HC Jeff Fisher has a strong history producing strong workhorse backs. Eddie George, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson come to mind. Unfortunately, the departure of S Jax has left a fight at RB that we just aren’t close to knowing the result of. Worst case scenario it’s a dreaded three-headed monster of RB, effectively sapping all starter value from each RB. Best case scenario one of these guys wins the role outright and produces at least as a top 30 RB, at best top 20. With Daryl Richardson (124.5), Isaiah Pead (125.2), and Zac Stacy (126.6) all going in the 14th round, it’s a very low risk scenario picking any of them and hoping they win the job outright. If whoever you pick doesn’t win the job or show us anything in Week 1, you can cut bait very easy and pick up somebody else if you need to. Pead’s 1-game suspension makes his situation a little trickier, but you can still follow preseason games to get an idea who the lead back will likely be.
Bernard Pierce/ Ben Tate/ Bryce Brown – These three are in very similar situations. Each is on a team that is committed to running the football. Each has standalone value as a desperation flex play if need be based on their likely usage. Each is under 25, has a light career workload, and most importantly is one serious injury away from pushing for top 10 RB value each start. These are the ultimate RB handcuffs in our game and each is being drafted in the 14th on average. Don’t be afraid to steal them from the Rice/Foster/McCoy owners respectively. We’d rather you take the best RB available than reach to draft the backup to your RB1 (which is called a handcuff in case you were new to that term). If you pick Pierce, Tate, or Brown in the 12th or 13th, you are getting major upside for little cost. Also don’t discount the trade value of drafting say Ben Tate instead of the Arian Foster owner. When bye weeks and injuries to some starters inevitably hit, he or she might just be searching some security for their top pick. Don’t sleep on trade value.
Dwayne Bowe – He isn’t the sexiest of options for sure. KC’s offense has been dreadful the past few seasons, ranking 31st and 32nd in total points in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Despite that, he’s averaged over 1000 yards receiving and 5 TD per 16 game averages. In 2010, when the offense ranked just 14th in total points, Bowe finished with 1162 receiving yards and 15 TD. Obviously the past two season’s TD totals represent a regression to the mean, but in a halfway decent offense expect solid numbers. The offensive line here is really an under appreciated plus unit. Never underestimate the power of a strong offensive line. That in mind, we fully expect at least a halfway decent offense in 2013 once you count the additions of HC Andy Reid and QB Alex Smith. Reid is committed to throwing the football, and Alex Smith is a big upgrade on any QB the Chiefs have had the past three seasons. With a 5th round ADP, you are getting a WR2 with real WR1 upside, He’s an elite WR in the prime of his career.
Cecil Shorts and Greg Jennings – These two are very attractive at their current 9th round ADPs. The sharp money is on Chad Henne to start in Jacksonville. Looking at Weeks 10-12 and 14-15 (games Cecil played and Henne started or received significant playing time), Shorts had 75+ yards in 4 of 5 games and 3 TD. Justin Blackmon is suspended the first 4 games, and separately recovering from groin surgery. Greg Jennings has new purple digs and a boatload of new money after signing with the Vikings. Minnesota is a run first team, but as the number one option, he will be targeted heavily when Ponder does throw. Jennings has a recent history of injuries, but the talent is still there. He can still gain separation and has the ability to make plays after the catch. Both Shorts and Jennings are on offenses you generally don’t want to be attached to, but this late in the draft, talented players in tougher situations start appearing at the top of your draft board. The thing about crappy offenses is that somebody still has to score points. High volume, talented WRs like these two fit the bill.
Anquan Boldin – He’s old and he plays in the most run oriented offense in the NFL. His ceiling is capped. Don’t sleep on him though. He finished the 2012 season very well with an impressive run to the Super Bowl to boot. The injury to Michael Crabtree is a huge boon to his potential. He’s the #1/2 option in that passing game, so given the proven ability of the 49ers offense to move the football, a 1000 yard 6 TD campaign is not at all out of the question. He’s a steal at his current 11th round ADP and makes for an excellent WR4 that you can start in a pinch.
Michael Floyd/Emmanuel Sanders/Ryan Broyles – This is the young upside crew right here. All have the necessary talent and potential opportunity where a top 25 WR finish is not out of the question, making them all really sneaky values each going in the 14th round or later. Floyd looks locked in as the #2 WR in Arians’ likely aerial explosion in Arizona. The Steelers and Emmanuel Sanders himself are already talking up a possible 1000 yard campaign. Why not? OC Todd Haley will continue to favor the pass as he’s historically done. Sanders is worth a flyer. Broyles is massively skilled and in arguably the best situation as a member of Matt Stafford’s weekly passing camp, but he’s very very brittle and coming off an ACL injury. Reports are positive so far, so draft before the 14th on upside alone. You aren’t risking much. Honorable mention at WR are Alshon Jeffrey and Vincent Brown.
Jeremichael Finley/Jordan Cameron/ Brandon Myers/ Martellus Bennett – These guys are the reason to wait on a TE. Each currently goes in the 13th round or later, and each has top 10 TE potential. Cameron has the worst supporting cast, and he’s also the most unproven, but don’t sleep on a tight end in Norv Turner’s offense, they almost always produce. Finley is a member of a juggernaut. Eli loves his TEs, so expect Myers, a guy who was highly effective on a bad offense last season, to do well. Bennett’s blocking skills will keep him on the field almost every down. New HC Mark Trestman’s system will give the him yards and TDs he’s longed for. If you miss out on a top TE, snag one or these guys.
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