2017 Football Diehards Staff Draft Analysis

By Jen Ryan
Jen Ryan We all love our home leagues and they are near and dear to us, but the Football Diehards staff league is as close to my heart as my family league. I am fortunate to be surrounded by and work with (and for) some of the most brilliant minds in fantasy football. When we participate in our staff draft each year, not only does the fun and competitive spirit among us come out, but we all get this great opportunity to learn from each other and, in turn, for our readers to learn from us. Industry drafts, especially drafts full of insiders from one site, are unique and edgy. We know who “our” guys are, and we know who our competitions’ guys are. For this reason, average draft position loosens up and it is not uncommon to see a player drafted a round or two above his consensus ADP. The Football Diehards staff draft is exciting and at times shocking, but most importantly it is super, super sharp. You can click here to see our final draft board: https://www61.myfantasyleague.com/2017/options?L=16685&O=113&DISPLAY=LEAGUE

You can also click here (Staff Draft Video ) to hear myself and Emil Kadlec’s thoughts as the draft unfolded.

I spent a lot time this summer analyzing industry drafts for our magazine series. What a privilege to be a fly on the wall and observe these sharks in action and then relay to you my thoughts on their draft. These are simply my observations and my goal in communicating them with you is to encourage you to look at the draft yourself and draw some of your own conclusions. This makes both better at fantasy football and increases our awareness when it comes to our own drafts. Let’s take a look at the Football Diehards staff draft, team by team, and see where there was some value picks and, of course, some reaches.

1. Evan Tarracino

The first pick is coveted for some but a tough spot for others. When you pick at the top of the draft you get first crack at the top player, which for 2017 is nearly 100% of the time David Johnson. Picking from the one hole is challenging because 22 players are selected before you draft back-to-back picks. Average draft position becomes irrelevant as the draft progresses because the probability of a player you are eyeing up lasting 22 picks shrinks.

Biggest Value: This is a tossup because Evan grabbed some late value in selecting Jonathan Stewart as the RB45 at the top of the 11th round, but his real value pick here was when Doug Baldwin fell to him in the third round as the WR13. Despite finishing inside of the top ten (WR10 and WR8) over the past two seasons, Baldwin is consistently drafted outside of the top ten. He has scored 21 touchdowns over his last two seasons and remains Russell Wilson’s top target.

Biggest Reach:: Matt Ryan had a career year in 2016 that will be difficult to duplicate. He has finished as a top five quarterback just one other time, back in 2012. As the fourth quarterback off the board in the seventh round, Ryan was likely drafted at his possibly unattainable ceiling.

2. Bob Harris

When you don’t have a shot at David Johnson you are left with no choice but to select Le’Veon Bell, as Bob did. He has the upside to finish as the RB1 this season if he is on the field for 15 games and the battle to the top between him and Johnson will be fun to watch. Selecting Bell here allowed Bob to wait until the second round to select his RB2, C.J. Anderson (RB27), allowing him to load up on receivers. This is ideal in PPR scoring.

Biggest Value: Andy Dalton as the QB12 in the 11th round could be the pick that wins Bob this thing. Despite not having A.J. Green for half of the season in 2016, Dalton finished exactly as the QB12. If Green remains healthy this year, Dalton could be the Matt Ryan of 2017.

Biggest Reach:: “Gronk and log out”, they say. Gronk is absolutely not Bob’s Biggest Reach:, but Julius Thomas in the 12th round may be. He has tremendous upside now that he has reunited with Adam Gase and you could do worse than Thomas as the TE17, but the following round Cameron Brate was available and Bob snagged him. When you have a monster like Gronk, who is healthy by all reports, just one more tight end should do.

3. Armando Marsal

The Ezekiel Elliott news broke shortly before our draft, and Armando passed on him in the first round for the most consistent wide receiver in fantasy football, Antonio Brown. He rounded out his team with possession receivers and pass-catching backs.

Biggest Value: How Kenny Britt made it past me (and everyone else) and tumbled down to the ninth round is beyond me. Despite coming off of a 1,000 yard season, 43 receivers were selected ahead of Britt. He’s garnered buzz among fantasy insiders this summer and Armando stole him from under our noses here.

Biggest Reach:: Kareem Hunt has a ton of upside, but selecting him in the 10th round was a bit of a reach, mainly for the fact that Armando landed the top running back for the New York Giants, Shane Vereen, three rounds later as the RB56(!).

4. Emil Kadlec

I’ll tread lightly here since Emil is the boss (kidding!). With Emil’s first pick, he grabbed the only receiver in football with the upside to supplant Antonio Brown when he selected Odell Beckham. I don’t suspect Brandon Marshall will do anything to threaten Beckham’s value, who arguably may be the best receiver to touch the turf in the past decade.

Biggest Value: Emil’s Mr. Irrelevant, Branden Oliver, is a super sneaky pick. Handcuffing your own running back or someone else’s can be tricky because we typically see a committee approach when a starter goes down. There are few backfields where there is a clear cut backup who will be in line for bell cow duties if the starter misses time, and the Los Angeles Chargers backfield is one of them. Oliver is a seasoned vet who would be the top waiver wire pick up if Melvin Gordon were to miss time.

Biggest Reach:: When 2016’s WR9 is drafted in the third round as the WR15, it’s hard to call that a reach but that is exactly what I will call Davante Adams here. I’ve seen this movie before, and it was called “Randall Cobb, 2014”. Adam’s breakout was incredible last year but I fear regression is imminent and though Cobb had a down year, he is still a part of this offense. The acquisition of Martellus Bennett does not help Adams’ touchdown appeal either.

5. Mike Dempsey

Dempsey may have more paid drafts under his belt than all of us combined, and that’s evident by his draft. He has a balanced team, took some shots on rookies, and backed up his stud tight end LeSean McCoy with Jonathan Williams, who may have standalone value himself (especially if Buffalo were to trade McCoy, which is an idea that crossed my mind when I saw how heavily he was featured in the Bills second preseason game). Mike also got one of “his” guys, Marqise Lee, which makes rooting for him even more fun on Sundays.

Biggest Value: I view Mike’s Jonathan Williams pick in the same light as Emil’s Branden Oliver pick, just with way more upside. Though I am not a fan of handcuffing, as I previously mentioned, I do make exceptions when there is a high probability that there will be no committee behind the starter. Williams will see RB1 touches if McCoy is injured (or traded – I have serious suspicions this may happen).

Biggest Reach:: Donte Moncrief is a tricky fantasy asset. His touchdown upside is through the roof, but seven touchdowns on 30 receptions in 2016 seems nearly impossible to sustain, especially considering he scored six touchdowns on over 60 receptions in the prior season. There are obvious question marks with Andrew Luck’s health, but Moncrief hasn’t exactly been the poster boy for good health either. He’s a guy I’m off of this season, even s the WR39 where Mike snagged him.

6. Jen Ryan

I went with a 5/3 WR/RB approach with my first eight picks. In PPR scoring, I tend to load up on receivers and it always puts me at a disadvantage at running back. I am ok with that, and feel I took guys who have upside in terms of volume.

Biggest Value: My Mr. Irrelevant is my pick I may be most proud of. I typically do not draft more than one quarterback or tight end. If you listened to the draft commentary by Emil and myself, you will know I had my eye on Watson for about three rounds. He has little to no competition around him for targets and snaps, and though there is uncertainty at quarterback, the steady veteran should far exceed his value at TE24.

Biggest Reach:: This has to be Marshawn Lynch, who I took as my RB1 in the fourth round as the 17th back off the board. I understand his reputation, upside, and the fact that he will be running behind a top-graded offensive line. That does not make him any less troublesome as a player who has been out of football for over a year. If there is a conditioning set back or, even worse, if he is not the same beastmode of the past, my team could be toast.

7. Justin Lonero

Justin also took the approach of loading up on receivers early and started things off with A.J. Green, Amari Cooper and Allen Robinson. He followed those picks up with Ty Montgomery who is the most legitimate dual threat in football as a receiver turned running back. Montgomery is an ideal target in PPR scoring, as we can expect him to be used in the backfield as a runner and receiver on one of the most explosive offenses in football.

Biggest Value: The Minnesota Vikings selected Dalvin Cook in the second round of this year’s NFL draft. Clearly you do not invest that sort of draft capital for a player to ride the bench, but why has that deemed Latavius Murray dead? The Vikings brought him in during the offseason, gave him $3.4 million upfront, and will at least use him at the goal line. Justin grabbed Murray, who has scored 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons, in the 15th round as the RB63.

Biggest Reach:: Someone has to be that person who takes defense first, and it was Justin in the 13th round. The Denver Broncos are obviously not a bad pick, but he was able to get the Vikings defense three rounds later. Here were the picks selected in the 13th round after the Broncos: Cole Beasley, Phillip Rivers, Joe Williams, Robby Anderson, and Evan Ingram.

8. Lisa Ann

Drafting 8-10 are my preferred spots. Drafting here gives you the opportunity to grab value early and take chances later on. Lisa built her receiving corps around receivers with high target totals, anchored by Devonta Freeman at running back who is a PPR monster at the position. Her team is also loaded at quarterback.

Biggest Value: It is hard to argue against Lisa’s Darren McFadden pick at RB40 if the Ezekiel Elliott suspension stays at six games. If it does not, I’d argue her value pick is Kyle Rudolph, 2016’s TE2, as the TE9. I am not completely sure as to why Rudolph continues to be undervalued across all formats. He broke out last season and developed chemistry with Sam Bradford, who will be under center for the Vikings again this season.

Biggest Reach:: Tom Brady is one of the best quarter backs alive, I will not dispute that. Tom Brady as the QB2 in this draft is his true ceiling, as he has finished as the QB2 just once over the past nine years. I realize he has an endless supply of the water that comes from the fountain of youth, but he just turned 40 years old and he will need to have a career year for his value to pay off here.

9. Gary Davenport

That falling value I referenced above presented itself here when Gary took Melvin Gordon as the RB5 ninth overall. He came around with Ezekiel Elliott who will at some point be an asset on Gary’s team. He certainly took some chances at receiver, especially on DeVante Parker who’s breakout could be imminent with Jay Cutler in town.

Biggest Value: Essentially every pick Gary made from round 12 is a value pick. If I had to pick one, which I do because that’s how I am writing this article, then I would have to go with old reliable Jason Witten as the TE22 in the 17th round (although Thomas Rawls at RB49 is very close). Witten has been a top ten tight end in PPR scoring in seven of his past eight seasons. The transition to Dak Prescott from Tony Romo did not kill Witten’s value at all. He will never give you a TE1 week, but he will never give you a dud either. You can count on him for double-digit points nearly every week.

Biggest Reach:: I fear we are at the point where we are giving Alshon Jeffery what we call in the entertainment business a vanity credit. His name holds more weight than his work reflects. He has proven to be truly boom or bust. Since back-to-back top ten finishes from 2013-2014, Jeffery has failed to crack the top 40 in wide receiver scoring. WR19 is too rich for my blood even with his massive upside.

10. The Gridiron Scholars

No one takes more shots on rookies than John Laub, and no one is more educated on rookies than the Gridiron Scholar. I trust and value his assessment on all things rookie, so when he drafts a handful of them I don’t blink. Four rookies landed on John’s team, most notably Christian McCaffery. His sneakiest rookie pick? That would be the Buffalo Bills’ WR1 Zay Jones, who was selected as the WR53 by John.

Biggest Value: Pierre Garcon has top 12 upside this season. Bold statement, yes, but when Garcon and Kyle Shannahan were together from 2010-2013 he averaged over 125 targets per season. In their final season together, Garcon saw a career high 181 targets. If we project Garcon to even see his average volume in San Francisco this season, he will have the opportunity to finish as a WR1. Thirty receivers were drafted ahead of him in our staff league.

Biggest Reach:: John is a rookie whisperer so I am not questioning his acumen here, however Samaje Perine, even as the RB52, feels like a reach when Giovani Bernard went nine picks later. There is nothing striking about Rob Kelley’s game, but Perine will have a tough time competing with both he and Chris Thompson for touches.

11. Brad Kruse

We swooned over Brad’s draft throughout our commentary. Brad is a seasoned high stakes player that we can ALL learn a thing or two from, and drafting with him was an incredible opportunity. He pushed the envelope in every round, and holds the distinction of being the true late-round quarterback drafter of our staff. Sam Bradford became his selection in the 16th(!) round as the QB22. He is so, so sharp.

Biggest Value: How do you pick just one on Brad’s team? Robby Anderson (WR60) has my nod here, though I could also argue that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense in the 18th round was a total steal due to their Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. This whole team is the archetype of value-based drafting.

Biggest Reach:: Pass, but if I have to split hairs here I suppose I could be skeptical of Sammy Watkins as the WR20, but I can’t even say that with confidence.

12. Chad Stapley

Chad’s team is on the opposite end of Evan’s spectrum but the same situation applies where he grabbed value but, due to the nature of the draft spot, was also forced to take certain players a bit early. Tyreke Hill seems like a risk as his WR1 in the third round, but his true WR1 Kelvin Benjamin fell to him in the fifth. Be sure to check out our Ease of Schedule tool (http://www.footballdiehards.com/eosforecast.cfm ) to drool over Benjamin’s schedule is season.

Biggest Value: See above. The entire Carolina Panthers’ offense is due for some positive regression and their schedule is insanely juicy this season for fantasy purposes. We are all aware of Benjamin’s capabilities. If he can stay on the field for the entire season, we will look back at this draft and wonder to ourselves “How the hell were 31 wide receivers drafted before Kelvin Benjamin?”

Biggest Reach:: RB13 translates to a fringe RB1 in fantasy, and that is exactly what Dalvin Cook will have to be to pay off at his ADP here. Cook will have competition for touches and could be vulture by Latavius Murray, which would absolutely crush his fantasy ceiling. He has high expectations and is a top tier rookie talent, but low-end RB1 could be asking for a bit much.

You’re still reading? Thanks for sticking around. If you take away anything from this article, please take away the idea of studying industry drafts. Our draft board is available in the link at the top of the article and our staff draft is an indicator of where are thoughts on these players are for 2017. Enhances your chances in your leagues by analyzing ours.