Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fantasy Football Writers Mock Draft 2011

On Saturday, I participated in the Gridiron Experts Invitational Draft, my first mock fantasy football draft of the season. One thing became clear right away, there are too many question marks right now to know if you're drafting the right players.

During this 12-team, standard scoring draft with other fantasy football writers, it was clear, I was rusty. Couple that with the fact that I was drafting with great football minds, I needed to be prepared for every pick. I started with the fourth pick and got great value right away.

My strategy for this draft, and for most of my drafts, is to land my starting running backs with my first two picks. I then target my wide receivers and eventually start looking for a quarterback. I'm never the first guy to draft a defense, but once the first one is taken, I take one with my next pick. Defenses are important, but be careful not to overvalue them. Same is true with kickers. I usually wait until the last two rounds to draft a kicker. There's always a good possibility that a top 10 kicker goes undrafted and will be available in free agency.

This specific league doesn't allow transactions, it's strictly for mock draft purposes only, but my draft strategy fits specifically for a league that allows transactions. I intentionally didn't draft a back-up defense or kicker because neither are required in this league. I like this strategy because it allows me to carry more position players instead of an extra DST or kicker that I wouldn't use. In a transaction league, I would pick-up a DST or kicker only for one week, when I needed them for a bye week fill-in.

1.4 (4th overall)
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
I was prepared to select Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles with this pick, but Johnson fell to fourth. While I am concerned about Tennessee's quarterback situation, Johnson is still a top flight running back and has shown the ability to have success in weak offenses.

2.9 (21st overall)
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
I have Bradshaw higher in my rankings than most people do. I like his versatility and he has a chance to put up 1,700 total yards and 9-10 touchdowns. He was hobbled last season and still performed extremely well. I'm concerned about his fumble issues (6 lost in 2010) and losing carries to Brandon Jacobs, but I'm willing to gamble on his upside. I drafted Bradshaw with the expectation that he will re-sign with the Giants this offseason.

3.4 (28th overall)
Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers
I reached a bit with Jackson with this pick, but I liked him better than who was left at wide receiver. After drafting running backs in the first two rounds, I needed a wide receiver. My choice came down to Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Dwayne Bowe and DeSean Jackson. I choose Vincent Jackson because he has best quarterback situation of the bunch (Philip Rivers) and he's in a contract year. In the five games last year (after 11 games missed due to suspension and a hold-out), Jackson was impressive. He finished with 14 catches, 248 yards and three touchdowns (all three TDs coming in Week 15).

4.9 (45th overall)
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
This league requires us to start one tight end, so I went after the best one available. I feel like I got a steal with Gates at 45. I have him ranked higher than that and if he can stay healthy this season, I expect big numbers. Gates missed six games last season, but he still managed to score 10 touchdowns. As long as he can stay healthy, Gates is a sure thing fantasy football stud, especially in league's that require tight ends.

5.4 (52nd overall)
Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
I went against my own rankings and drafted Holmes in the fifth round. I have Holmes currently ranked 74th overall, but I'm starting to think he's more valuable than that. Holmes is a free agent this offseason and will be the New York Jets top priority once the lockout is lifted. It's clear the Jets and quarterback Mark Sanchez value him tremendously. In 12 games last season, Holmes was targeted 94 times, that's seven targets a game. And if Braylon Edwards leaves in free agency, I can see Holmes becoming more relevant in the red zone.

6.9 (69th overall)
Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Harvin's another guy I drafted ahead of where I have him ranked, but I like his potential in the Vikings new offense. Harvin will benefit tremendously from new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense. Musgrave likes to have his receivers work short and intermediate routes, something Harvin does extremely well. Harvin's a playmaker who can make even a rookie quarterback look better than he is.

7.4 (76th overall)
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
I loved this pick. In a league that takes away two points for each interception, I wanted a quarterback who I could count to give me a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio. Ryan was the perfect option and to get him in the seventh round I felt like I got a steal. Ryan tossed 28 touchdowns last season and protected the ball brilliantly. The addition of rookie wide receiver Julio Jones makes Ryan even more valuable and I expect Ryan to have another solid year.

8.9 (93rd overall)
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit Lions
With my starting line-up set, I started filling in my bench. Leshoure is a guy I think could have a big impact as a rookie, maybe not early on, but eventually he'll get his chance. Last season, the Lions struggled to find consistency at running back (none of their running backs averaged over four yards per carry). It's clear second-year running back Jahvid Best isn't an every down back and the other players on the Lions roster aren't the answer either. Detroit needs a running back who can grind out yards and punch it in near the goalline, Leshoure could be that guy in Motown.

9.4 (100th overall)
Johnny Knox, WR, Chicago Bears
The third-year wide receiver has averaged five touchdowns a season and last year doubled his receiving yards. He looked comfortable in Mike Martz offense and should be the Bears number one receiver when camp opens. I like his big play ability (18.8 yards per reception) and the way he finished strong last season. Three of Knox's five TDs came in weeks 15 and 16. He's a very good option of the bench.

10.9 (117th overall)
Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins
I selected Helu for the same reason I chose Leshoure, I think eventually he'll get his shot in Washington. The Redskins have a stable of running backs that don't excite me, led by Ryan Torian. Helu reminds me of (likely) soon-to-be former Redskins running back Clinton Portis, who's had a great career with Mike Shanahan. I felt Helu was worth drafting and stashing on my bench until he got a chance to play.

11.04 (124th overall)
Green Bay Packers DST
With the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets defenses off the board (a couple of picks ahead of me), it was time for me to grab my defense. I usually wait until someone picks a defense before I take one myself. I have the Packers ranked as the top defense this year, mostly because of Clay Matthews and their playmakers in the secondary. Also, the addition of rookie Randall Cobb could give the Packers a boost in the return game as well this season.

12.9 (141st overall)
Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos
This was a terrible pick by me. The one-minute draft timer was ticking away fast and I needed to make a selection, so I hastily chose Orton. While I think Orton will be a starter somewhere this season, and I like his touchdown to interception ratio, I could have drafted him later. With Matt Ryan already on my roster, it will be difficult for Orton to crack my starting line-up. Not a smart pick by me.

13.4 (148th overall)
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
As I've said before, Ochocinco is more name than game right now, but he's still worth a roster spot. While Ochocinco is likely done in Cincinnati, I still think he can be a productive NFL wide receiver. If he ends up on a team with a solid quarterback and keeps his mouth shut (yeah, I know), he might be a great value pick at 148.

14.9 (165th overall)
Blair White, WR, Indianapolis Colts
While you never wish for a player to get injured, I am suspect of Austin Collie's health. White would likely be Collie's replacement in Indy if he were to go down with another head injury. White filled in sparingly last season, finishing with five touchdowns (four them during the second half of the season). The slot receiver for the Colts is always a valuable commodity, I'm banking on White (eventually) being that guy.

15.4 (172nd overall)
Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons
I expect the Falcons offense to be consistently good and move the ball very well this season. Bryant should get plenty of opportunities to convert extra points and his fair share of field goal opportunities. Bryant doesn't have the strongest leg, but kicking inside a Dome stadium 12 times in 2011 made him very appealing to me.

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