The Beauty and the Beast of the Live Draft

You’ve done your research; you’ve done your mocks, but nothing can prepare you for this…the live draft. I’m talking old school, entire league in a room, sticker on poster board, in-person draft. An experience to be had by any fantasy footballer, the live draft provides owners with a unique way of drafting a team. Unlike drafting on sites that provide rankings, projections, and injuries in the draft room, a live draft removes these safety nets and leaves you only with your wits (and your cheat sheet from the upcoming Payoffs and Jagoffs column). For the better part of 15 years I have been participating in live drafts and am well versed in their twists and turns. The following is a rare glimpse into the mind of a Fantasy Jag and the thought process used in building my team during one of my very own live drafts.

1.03 Antonio Brown (WR)

  • Getting the third pick, I knew my choices were going to be Bell, Johnson, or Brown. Living in Stiller Country I thought I was going to get Johnson and was jumping for joy. Didn’t happen that way so I’m “stuck” with the consensus number one WR, projected for 113 catches, 1500 yards and 9 TD. Woe is me.

 2.08 Amari Cooper (WR)

  • Running backs went hot and heavy to end the 1st and begin the 2nd The next options on my board at this pick were Gurley & Miller. Not sold on either of them as solid options with this selection.  Both are part of bad offenses and coming off bad seasons.  I do believe that they both bounce back to an extent, but not to the point of deserving a second round pick. So Cooper it is. The touchdowns haven’t been there in his young career, but he’s going into his third year; which is a notorious breakout out year for talented receivers (see Mike Evans from last season). Couple that with 0.5 PPR scoring and I have an excellent start to my team.

3.03 Rob Gronkowski (TE)

  • Full disclosure, I completely forgot about Gronk with my second pick. Going back to my sheet after the Cooper pick I realized my mistake and planned to take Gronk in the next round. Luckily everyone drafting ahead of me forgot too and I landed my first of two huge steals in the draft. When healthy Gronk is undoubtedly the best TE in the game. He’s finished in the top five in touchdowns, fantasy points and yards per target during the past four seasons in which he’s appeared in at least 11 games.  Stay healthy my friend.

4.08 Isaiah Crowell (RB)

  • Rodgers and Brady were selected with the two picks right before me, or else they would have been my choice here. Instead I get Crowell, the feature back in Cleveland. The Browns are rebuilding – Moneyball style, hiring Paul DePodesta (as portrayed by Jonah Hill in Moneyball) to oversee the project. First order of business was retooling the Offensive Line, which is why I love Crowell this year. Already a standout talent, Crowell can only benefit from the new O-Line, rookie QB DeShone Kaizer and Hue Jackson’s emphasis on running the ball more.

5.03 Ty Montgomery (RB)

  • Experts love him and so do I. The feature back in a high scoring offense, Montgomery can not only run the ball, but also catch the ball (re: 0.5 PPR). There are concerns about his health as he is a diagnosed carrier of the sickle cell trait, but aside from a soft tissue injury in the preseason (which he has since recovered from), there is no indication that Montgomery won’t produce as a top 15 back.

6.08 Stefon Diggs (WR)

  • On draft day, Diggs had everything going for him. He was slated as the slot receiver in a Vikings offense that loves to work the middle of the field and was considered an easy candidate for a 90+ catch season. That’s money for the FLEX spot in 0.5 PPR league. Since the draft and as of this writing, Diggs was moved to the outside receiver spot which hurts his chances at 90+ catches, however, his yardage should increase. I was originally banking on an average of 5 catches a game from him, but his floor seems to have dropped out. The jury is out on this one.

7.03 Ameer Abdullah (RB)

  • Ahhh, the dreaded mid-round picks. At this spot all but two teams have a starting QB (one of them being myself). Figuring the run on backup QB’s won’t start for a while, I set my sights on another featured RB. Abdullah figures to be a workhorse in Detroit, whose offensive scheme changed to a ball possession and clock management style late last season. Clearly the most talented option for the Lions, I expect big things from Abdullah, especially as an RB3 or FLEX2 for my team.

8.08 Willie Snead (WR)

  • Once again, another receiver who, on draft day, looked good. Drew Brees loves to spread the ball around and Snead was great over the middle of the field last year (translating into high quantity catches). Though he will stay in the slot, Ted Ginn figures to take away some targets that were originally slated for Snead (with Brandin Cooks’ exit). He still should get the second most targets on the team, which is why I like him as a bench/FLEX option in 0.5 PPR scoring. Like Diggs, the jury is out on this one too.

9.03 Terrance West (RB)

  • Still no QB for the squad. But, at this point everyone has a starter and is making up ground on their team for drafting one early. Although not impressing anyone last year or this preseason, Terrance West figures to get over 200 carries on a team that gets to face the Browns twice, plus Miami, Jacksonville, Chicago, Detroit and Indy. Although the floor is lower, there is strong fantasy upside here, and at this point in the draft you can afford a few more risks. West sounds like fantasy points to me.

10.08 Cameron Meredith (WR)

  • Not much to say here. Meredith was drafted before his season ending ACL tear. This will be the first drop when a waiver move is needed. Quick note about the strategy here though. At this point I still have not drafted a QB and the people selecting after me (owning the first and second picks), already have theirs. By waiting to select a QB in Round 11, I can select another skilled position player without the risk of any QBs coming off the board.

11.03 Russell Wilson (QB)

  • Remember when I said I had two steals in this draft? Well, here’s the other one. Considered by many, myself included, to be a top 5 QB coming into this year, I was able to draft Wilson as the 10th QB off the board. Talk about value. Hampered by an ankle injury last year, Wilson comes into the season completely healthy and ready to bounce back after what for him was considered a down year. With the offense leaning more pass oriented than ever, Wilson is primed to return on his ranking as a top 5 QB.

12.08 Darren Sproles (RB)

  • A 0.5 PPR scoring machine, Darren Sproles was an easy round 12 pick for me. I know he’s old and this might be his last season, but “gramps” can still produce in PPR leagues. With a murky backfield situation in Philly, Sproles is cemented in his role as the passing down back. Pair that with the uncertainty of the personnel in the backfield, Sproles might even get a few more carries. I predict him leading the Eagles backfield in fantasy points in PPR scoring (Editor’s note – we will continue to follow-up on this throughout the year, don’t worry). With a high ceiling, Sproles felt like a tremendous value here, hence his selection.

13.03 Chris Hogan (WR)

  • A draft day dart thrown here. The night prior, Edleman tore his ACL and was declared out for the season. Hogan stepped into the preseason game and went off for 2 touchdowns. I jumped on the hype train quickly. Since the draft there has been talk that it won’t be just Hogan replacing Edleman, but rather a committee of people aka the “Patriot Way”. I still believe that Hogan will get the 3rd most targets on the team (behind Gronk and Cooks) and with his upside, I think he is worth the gamble in the 13th

14.08 Duke Johnson (RB)

  • A handcuff to Crowell, Johnson provides similar talents to Darren Sproles (albeit on a worse team and without the pedigree). Still, word out of Browns camp was that they were using Johnson as a slot receiver in certain formations, which bodes well for 0.5 PPR scoring.

15.03 Eli Manning (QB)

  • Truthfully would have liked someone else here for my backup, but I waited one round too long to nab my target of Phillip Rivers. However, I believe that Manning has more weapons this year than he ever had before. Also, the G-men love to throw the ball in the redzone; their running backs didn’t score double digit TDs last season combined! If he can take care of the ball this could be another steal and potential mid-season trade candidate.

16.08 O.J. Howard (TE)

  • Howard is a talented rookie in a good offense in Tampa Bay. The question is, will the Bucs trust him enough to put him on the field? Right now he is the “1B” with Brate being the “1A”. I believe that by the time I need him (hopefully Gronk’s by week and that’s it) he will have established himself as a force over the middle of the field and in the redzone.

17.03 New York Giants (DEF/ST)

18.08 Matt Prater (K)

  • NEVER select a kicker or defense before the final 2 rounds. If there is any take away from this article, please let it be this. These positions are not important and can be streamed each week (or as needed). Don’t waste early round picks on either of these positions. If DEF/ST start going to other owners early, be thankful you are in a league with a bunch of jags and don’t jump on the bandwagon. Wait until the end. Trust me.

Summary:

  • I love my team (of course, I drafted it). I believe that each week I have the opportunity to the have the highest scoring player at each position (K and DEF excluded). With that though, I will say that I wish I would have taken a closer look at Gronk in the 2nd round and drafted a RB in 3rd, which would have still allowed me to take either Crowell or Montgomery as an RB2. I see them both as high RB2’s though, which is why I’m ok with both of them being on the team. I took a lot of chances late in the draft with my receivers for a couple reasons: (1) I have Brown and Cooper which allows for more protection if none of them are relevant, and (2) there’s a much safer floor with the slot guys. In 0.5 PPR scoring, I like taking slot receivers rather than big play outside guys, with slot receivers anticipated to have more receptions. All in all, I say it was great draft. I look forward to hearing how your drafts went, and answering your questions on Twitter @fantasyjags412.

JAG-GRAD: B

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